Nov 04, 2016 News
-Says maintaining current situation is the worst option
By Kiana Wilburg
The future of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the need for a turnaround plan
was high on Cabinet’s agenda this week.
Revealing the details of Cabinet’s work in this regard was Minister of State, Joseph Harmon. Harmon during a post cabinet press briefing, yesterday, told reporters yesterday that some decisions regarding the sector will have to be made by year end.
This position was taken after “detailed and frank” presentations by GuySuCo officials to members of Cabinet on Tuesday.
Harmon said that the GuySuCo team was led by its Chairman, Dr. Clive Thomas. Also on the team were GuySuCo Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman, and the Chairman of the task force on diversification possibilities in GuySuCo.
Harmon said that the team briefed Cabinet on the state of the sugar industry, the challenges it faces and the options available to address the situation.
The politician recalled that after the presentation of the COI report on GuySuCo, Cabinet was briefed by the Commissioners. From that meeting, Harmon said that Cabinet outlined a five-point approach to address the issues raised by the Commission of Inquiry.
Harmon said that those points were that GuySuCo must present Cabinet with a plan which addresses the issues raised by the Commission Of Inquiry; Cabinet would give consideration to that plan; and having considered the plan, Cabinet would engage the Opposition and the National Assembly in consultations on the plan.
The approach also mandates that Cabinet would hold consultations with other stakeholders including, the workers of the corporation and the related unions.
“Therefore the presentation which was held on Tuesday was a part of that process which was outlined. The presentation to Cabinet gave considerations on the matters which ranged from maintaining the status quo which is just do nothing and just allow it to go as it is, to the point of a limited form of diversification,” said the Minister of State.
He added, “So there were several proposals. Of course the position that was taken by GuySuCo itself was that the worst option is to maintain the status quo since in that regard; there were serious implications for the National Treasury.
“And those implications are that it will require $18.6B in 2017 and $21.4B in 2018. That is just to maintain the status quo.”
Harmon said that this, of course, is added to GuySuCo’s current debt which is in excess of $80B.
The politician said that Cabinet listened very carefully to the team presentations, made comments and questioned them. He said that Cabinet also thanked the team for the frank and forthright presentations and indicated that it will give urgent consideration to the issues raised and advice offered.
In preparation for the next step, Harmon revealed that Cabinet appointed a subcommittee to look at the presentation made by the GuySuCo officers. He said that the team is expected to take into consideration, the points raised by the presenters and craft an approach which will mostly likely be used by the full Cabinet.
The subcommittee is expected to complete and present its repot to Cabinet within two weeks. The members of the subcommittee include Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
Minister Harmon asked to specify what “options” were presented by the GuySuCo team and if one of those included the closure of more sugar estates, said, “There were a range of options that have been presented to Cabinet and I would not want to be very specific with these options but I gave you what I call the continuum of opportunities and that is to say from doing nothing which is maintaining the status quo to diversification.”
He added, “So along that range, there are several options and the implications of us going down the route of any of those recommendations. So those are things which the subcommittee will deliberate on and report back to the full Cabinet …”
This answer however was not to the satisfaction of members of the media corps. The Minister of State was then pressed to say why there seems to be a degree of secrecy surrounding the options on the table and whether one of those options included shutting down more sugar estates.
Harmon stressed that it is important for Government to be “very careful” with the information it is feeding the public on that matter, hence he would not venture to give specifics on the “options.”
He said, “These are options…and we are in the process of deliberations on these options. It is not always good to go about it and say look these are the options and our deliberations. You would find that at the end of the deliberations, you arrive at a conclusion that is not consistent with your earlier position.
“So it is always important that we be very careful with what we announce and put out there. Any wrong step can send the wrong signal and create panic and confusion.”
He was subsequently told by one journalist that he was leaving the nation to speculate what those options are. The Cabinet Secretary made it clear however that Government is only doing what is best to arrive at a situation that is in the best interest of the people in the sector.
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