Guyana anticipated EU sugar cuts
…contrary to Dr. Leslie Ramsammy’s Parliamentary pronouncements
During the recent Budget Debates which saw more than $20B being slashed from the national
Expenditure, newly appointed Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, had complained bitterly about the end of the European Sugar Protocol which he said had taken Guyana by surprise and lent in part to the need for the $4B bailout of the Sugar Industry.
His predecessor, Robert Persaud, however, two years prior on February 4, 2010 appeared before the Parliamentary Economic Services Committee, which was at the time being chaired by Gail Teixeira and included opposition members such as the late Winston Murray.
On that day, Persaud who then held the portfolio for Agriculture and the Sugar Industry told the Economic Services Committee, that “GuySuCo has had to seriously, and some may say radically relook at its plans, its programmes and at its approach, not only in terms of management but what GuySuCo will embark on.”
Persaud in 2010 told the Committee, unlike what had been intimated by Dr. Ramsammy in 2012, that, “We all know that when the discussions had started with the end to the European Union (EU) sugar protocol, the Government had submitted a Guyana National Action Plan of which a subset was the Sugar Action Plan.”
Dr. Ramsammy told the Parliament during the budget debates that there had been an “intention” signaled on the part of the EU, to effect the sugar cuts but there was no clear “indication” of the timing.
This, he said, led to unanticipated lost revenue from sugar and as a result Government would have needed to plug the $4B.
But according to Persaud, inherent in the Sugar Action Plan was “that, there were some strategic decisions taken so that we can rescue, save, sustain and make viable the Guyana Sugar Industry.”
According to Persaud, “We also recognise that when this announcement came many of the countries within the Region, and elsewhere in fact, decided that they would leave sugar, and close down their industries…But recognising the potential socio-economic difficulties this can pose and also recognising too that sugar itself can be part of our overall National Development Plan going forward, given the work and the feasibility done as well as the potential that exists, the Government took that conscious decision that we will be staying with sugar and in so doing we had to make changes.”
The then Agriculture Minister told the Parliamentary Economic Services Committee that following a similar engagement with that Committee in 2008 “we have seen an acceleration of these changes and in some regards, we have seen implementation or at least the commencement of implementation of some of those strategic decisions which were captured within the Guyana National Action Plan or the Strategic Plan to save, rescue, sustain and make viable the Guyana Sugar Industry.”
He said, “Some of those decisions or some of those actions include: the commissioning of the Skeldon Sugar Factory, a mammoth investment; an investment close to US$190M…That was the actualization of the original plan…We also saw the full co-generation of component of that project kicked in, and in fact has been supplying electricity to the national grid.”
This, he said, has been in a way, the salvation to Berbice electricity woes and difficulties.
Two years later however the Skeldon Sugar Factory is yet to be operated at full capacity, plagued with operational problems and Berbice electricity woes continue seemingly unabated.
Persaud also told that Standing Parliamentary Committee two years ago that, “in terms of fulfilling those strategic and broad objectives, the new Board was tasked with coming up with a blueprint which we call a Strategic Blueprint for Success, commonly referred to as the Turnaround Plan…This Strategic Blueprint for Success, in fact, as the mandate given to the Board, and the Board to Management, is to ensure that we have a workable, practical plan that is consistent with the overall strategic objectives of the industry.”
Persaud pointed out that document, that was developed and approved by the Government in May 2008 and, is in fact the road map. “We see it as the road map – for the vitalisation and the sustainability of the sugar industry.”
This roadmap is also yet to yield the desired results.