Oct 27, 2015 News
– says Parliamentary suspension was the cause
The European Union (EU) is refusing to take blame for the state of Guyana’s sugar industry. Yesterday
it criticised the suspension of Parliament last year and the subsequent lack of oversight for withholding more than Euros 25M in budgetary support.
EU’s Ambassador, Jernej Videtiè, who made the statements in a Letter to the Editor yesterday, was responding to one written last week by former President Donald Ramotar, and carried in a newspaper closely aligned to the opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
According to the former President, the EU did not deliver 25M Euros that the country earned last year. The monies came from an agreement with the EU to help Guyana recover from sugar price cuts.
Earlier this year, EU announced that it had frozen the monies until a Parliament was in place along with the necessary oversights to ensure that the monies are well spent.
The previous Government, in face of a no-confidence motion last year over unauthorized spending, prorogued Parliament.
In January, Ramotar announced a May 11th date for fresh elections. His party went on to lose the elections by a narrow margin.
Ramotar, in defending the sugar industry’s performance last week, said he hoped that the EU releases the monies.
However, according to Ambassador Videtiè yesterday, it was in fact the previous government of Guyana that did not deliver on the terms of the agreement with the EU.
He said, in the letter, that the PPP Government made little progress last year in public finance management reforms. By effectively suspending Parliamentary oversight of the budget through the prorogation of the Parliament late last year, the previous Government forced the suspension of the payments.
“It must be remembered that these funds are European citizen’s taxes, and we have a duty to carefully ensure all of our criteria are met before any funds can be released. The National Assembly is now sitting and Parliamentary oversight is again in place, and we are working closely with the Government to re-establish eligibility criteria to bring these budget support programmes back on track,” the Ambassador said.
The diplomat also denied Ramotar’s claims that the sugar industry’s difficulties were caused “by the changed trading arrangement of the European Union”.
According to the Ambassador, EU was forced to make changes to its trading practices as a result of a ruling by the world’s trade body.
“I would like to note that the EU sugar regime was changed not due to a unilateral decision by the EU, but due to a ruling by the World Trade Organisation. In order to mitigate the effects of this ruling the European Union has given over €110 million – $26B – to Guyana to restructure its sugar industry. The European Union has been a strong and reliable partner of Guyana for over forty years, and will continue to be in the future,” he insisted.
The former President, in arguing his case for the industry not to be closed in light of an inquiry that will determine the future, said that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) had worked out a strategic plan, which had the input of all sections of the industry.
The plan envisaged cutting cost and looking at more revenue streams
for the corporation.
Earlier this year, in the face of May 11, General and Regional Elections, the EU announced that it has temporarily put on hold its two latest partial payments, 28.9M Eoros for the local sugar sector and 14.8M Euro for sea defence works.
The EU had explained that it has temporarily put on hold its two latest partial payments until all eligibility criteria, including budget oversight, are “satisfactorily” addressed.
Former UK High Commissioner to Guyana, Andrew Ayre had come in for criticisms from the then PPP government.
He had reportedly said, as well, that UK taxpayers would more than likely object to its government providing budgetary support to a country functioning without any means of parliamentary scrutiny.
This was followed by a firm retort from former Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon. He had accused the EU and the British High Commission of conspiring to dishonour the longstanding budgetary support agreement between the EU and the Government of Guyana.
Reversal of Fortunes
The new administration, under President David Granger, established a Commission of Inquiry earlier this year to determine the future of the sugar industry.
The report on the findings and recommendations was handed over last week to the Ministry of Agriculture.
The industry had fallen to a two decade low over the past few years, but according to the new administration, things seem to be looking up.
Yesterday, GuySuCo said it had completed its 13th week of grinding for the 2nd crop, 2015 and has surpassed the 10,000 tonnes mark for the fourth time recording 10,076 tonnes.
Already this has been achieved at six factories with Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara, completing its crop since October 17.
The past week, GuySuCo said, the troubled Skeldon factory recorded its highest weekly and daily production, 2,980 tonnes and 550 tonnes of sugar respectively, since its commissioning in 2009.
“In addition, the factory crushed an average 6,010 tonnes of canes daily, versus 8,400 tonnes, representing 72% of the design capacity of the plant.
As at October 25, 2015, sugar production for the crop was 104,461 tonnes or 71.4 % of the estimate for the crop. Some 185,604 tonnes has been produced for the year to date which represents 81.6 % of the total sugar production estimated for the year.
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