Dec 24, 2015 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
Even after spending millions of dollars on a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to examine the sugar industry, the coalition Government is still not clear on the direction in which the industry is heading.
It has been over two months since the Chairman of the COI, Vibert Parvatan, handed over the report to the Ministry of Agriculture but the report remains under Cabinet’s consideration. In fact, Cabinet is yet to decide whether it will adhere to the recommendations of the CoI report.
Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, recently told Kaieteur News that the report is being “interrogated at the moment and we will see where that will take the industry. Also we want the industry to be able to stand on its own feet.”
He said that the government is looking to set aside another $12B for GuySuCo. According to the Prime Minister, these bailouts may very well continue to be given to GuySuCo “until the industry is able to recover.”
“I cannot say much about these things (continuous bailouts) it has to do with the industry showing signs of recovery and then that will determine how much the government will reach out to the industry.”
Nagamootoo pointed to the retreat which Cabinet had a few weeks ago to consider the report.
He said that that retreat ended with a number of Ministers having several outstanding questions for some of the Commissioners who made mainly power point presentations.
“We were shown power point presentations. We asked the presenters to distribute the slides to us. But some of the key Ministers were not there (at the retreat.) These included Ministers who are dealing with the economic and financial issues so we asked for another retreat to bring back the presenters of the report face to face with Cabinet colleagues,” said Nagamootoo.
Nagamootoo said that on that occasion, Ministers will get their outstanding questions answered. “Then we will need another retreat to specifically deal with the recommendations.”
Therefore there is no way that sugar workers will get any word about the inquiry before next year.
Nagamootoo said, “I do not believe that it is something that we will want to put off for too long but at the same time this step by step evaluation and consultation process must be finished.”
He indicated that the recommendations are very weighty and he used that to explain why Cabinet is taking so long to deal with the report. “I do not think we just want to rush over because we are dealing with some serious recommendations. I can tell you that they are very serious, I have seen the recommendations and they have far reaching effects on the future of the sugar industry,” said Nagamootoo.
He added, “While we want to see the production going up and that attention is paid to worker conditions etc, we also want to see the industry start making profits so it can pay its debt and not go under because of its indebtedness.”
He admitted that taxpayers are basically subsidizing GuySuCo.
Many, especially those in the sugar industry, remain concerned about the findings of the COI set up to examine the sugar industry; government remains tight-lipped, refusing to let out any detail.
Back in November, some six weeks after the report was released, Cabinet finally decided to set aside time to examine the findings.
The report was late in itself, since the commissioners had asked for additional time to complete its work.
Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder had said that it would be premature for him to make any pronouncement relating to the report before it reaches Cabinet.
The Minister indicated that following Cabinet’s perusal of the report, a decision will be made at the next Cabinet meeting as to the way forward. But that did not happen. Instead, Kaieteur News is now hearing that at least two other retreats will be required.
The government had said that a COI was urgent and many were of the opinion that implementation of the recommendations would have been equally important.
Chairman of the COI Vibert Parvatan presented the Commission’s findings to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, George Jervis on October, 17.
Parvatan had told Kaieteur News that he accepts the harsh reality that whatever has been recommended will certainly not meet the expectations of all as, “there will be persons who are not satisfied.”
The Chairman noted that there were political sensitivities to the subject given its importance, relevance and significance to Guyana and its people. He explained that the report includes an executive summary, the special technical subcommittee reports, a section on Human Resource and industrial relations, and finance and economics. There are also sections on factories, fields and marketing.
Parvatan had declined to speak on the actual findings of the report, stating that due process has to be followed.
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