The political opposition is expected to challenge the government to a debate over the revealing report
coming out of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
This is according to Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo.
In an interview with Kaieteur News yesterday, he recalled that prior to the report being laid in the National Assembly on December 31, last, statements were already being made in the media that the sugar industry should be privatized.
The Opposition Leader expressed, “It was also implied that in the short term, costs should be contained. When I examined the CoI report, those were exactly the two recommendations coming out of the report. Now after spending some fifty million dollars, we seem to have a situation where evidence was just being gathered to suit preconceived notions about the way forward for GuySuCo.
Also, I have argued that the statement made by Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder in the Parliament when he laid the report was totally unfair because it did not give us a chance to reply in Parliament. Therefore, we shall put a motion before the House to have the full report debated”.
When Holder laid the reports on the CoI in the National Assembly, he had said that GuySuCo under the PPP was made into a “chronic loss maker.”
Holder said that the increasing output costs, combined with poor management, strategically placed the state-owned company on the path of no return.
Jagdeo said that the Minister’s comments were unmerited and with the debate as his platform, he (Jagdeo) and his team will prove to the nation that costs cannot be reduced, especially at the cost of the workers.
The Opposition Leader believes that Holder’s statements on the state of GuySuCo was misrepresented, and emphasized that even the recommendations of the report do not take into effect what the macroeconomic implications would be, should they be implemented.
“We believe that there could have been a better way forward with the CoI. It could have been done in a
more impartial way. The entire Commission of Inquiry was designed to support privatization, which I believe is a backdoor way of closing the industry. We want this debate, where both sides will be able to lay out their arguments and we decide properly on the way forward,” the former President asserted.
While Government has not yet moved to implement all of the recommended changes needed for GuySuCo’s sustainability, the company’s Chairman, Dr. Clive Thomas, has made it clear that moves are apace to get GuySuCo involved in the sale of electricity. This was one of the recommendations of the CoI report.
He noted too that while the recommendations for the industry appear “extreme”, those working in the sector should not be worried for one bit whether the sector would be closing shop.
“Indeed the changes that are coming will be radical, but it is necessary, because you cannot expect to be doing the same thing every year and getting different results. But we aren’t closing shop. We are concerned about the survival of this industry, but more importantly, bringing it to good health. We are trying to move towards value added products coming out of the sugar assets…We are trying to use the assets of the industry in a more creative way.”
Dr. Thomas said that he is working towards recovering Skeldon’s co-generation plant which was sold to Skeldon Energy Inc. (SEI). He said that the former CEO of GuySuCo, Rajendra Singh sold the company’s generation facilities to Skeldon Energy Inc—a Special Purpose Company jointly owned by the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), for US$30m, only to have it buy back power to run the factory.
To date, the sugar company has also only been paid US$19M of the agreed US$30M and SEI has since indicated that it could revise the outstanding US$11M amount.
Dr. Thomas told Kaieteur News that it is imperative that the plant be recovered, as it is a major supplier of power and basically the lifeline of the factory.
“It is such a major producer of power that it supplies 90,000 households in Berbice. We are in discussions on having that sale being reversed from being the property of GPL. It is an important pillar for GuySuCo. We are hoping to get it for next year. We want to be able to sell GPL power. We are getting ripped off with the plant being in the possession of another company.”
The GuySuCo Chairman explained that high on the entity’s list of priorities is moving towards the diversification of the sugar industry, especially as it regards refined sugar.
He noted that GuySuCo is still working to achieve a breakthrough with a new upgraded sugar called, “Enmore Crystals.”
“This product will help to give us some leverage to sell our sugar for more. This packaged sugar is only being done in small quantities for the markets in Canada, USA and Britain.”
The GuySuCo Chairman said that the Board and Management believe that the packaged sugar will do better than “the ordinary sugar sold in the transparent plastic bag.” He noted that samples are already being taken to the three markets he outlined, among other places where contacts are made.
“We are trying to penetrate the market with small quantities and build up as time goes. We are basically doing this to see how we can get a higher price for our sugar. And so far, it has been receiving favourable reviews from our international contacts, so we are looking to see how this works out, but there are other plans in the pipeline for the diversification of this product and bringing the industry back to good health,” Dr. Thomas said.
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