Nov 17, 2016 News
…should be ashamed to blame others – GuySuCo Chairman
By Kiana Wilburg
Top officials within the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) are maintaining that the appalling
state of the multibillion-dollar Skeldon Sugar Factory and the overall poor performance of the sugar industry, are just two of the highlights of PPP’s disgraceful track record in governing and managing key sectors.
Specifically, GuySuCo Chairman Dr. Clive Thomas made this assertion during an interview with this newspaper.
Dr. Thomas said that the US$200 million Skeldon Sugar Factory which was promised by the PPP to produce some 100,000 tonnes of cane is yet to do so. He noted, too, that the factory, based on an audit done by Wartsila Company, has been found to be in such a shocking state that the auditors said it would simply be pointless repairing it. Dr. Thomas stressed that factory in the first place, was poorly constructed.
The economist said that this is what the current administration inherited from the former regime. He emphasized, “We are trying to salvage what is left. I have said it before and I will say it again, the PPP unquestionably ran this sector into the ground. They had 23 years and given what we inherited, the PPP should be ashamed to face the nation; they should be ashamed to say the words: sugar industry”
However, in light of recent reports and images exposing the state of the US$200M factory which was commissioned in 2009, former President Donald Ramotar has come out strongly denying that his regime should be held responsible. In fact, Ramotar did not hesitate to throw the blame at the feet of the current administration. The former President has a theory that the Government is out to sabotage the factory.
Also speaking recently on the matter was former President, Bharrat Jagdeo. The Opposition Leader at a
press conference yesterday did not blame the coalition administration for the prevailing conditions at Skeldon. Instead, he said that it was the fault of UK-based company, Booker Tate Limited and that of the “incompetent” officials at GuySuCo.
Noting the comments made by the two former Presidents, Dr. Thomas said that he is taken aback, to say the least, that the duo would even have the audacity to try to “confuse the nation with such trickery.”
The GuySuCo Chairman said, “I have every confidence that the nation would see through the downright nasty and wicked tales being told by these two individuals. They really ought to be ashamed of themselves to be passing the blame to anyone else, when they sat at the helm of the sugar industry and watched it decline to such an appalling extent.”
“No one but the PPP is completely responsible for the state of the Skeldon Factory and that of the sugar industry. And trying to convince the nation that it is this government’s fault is perhaps the most dishonourable and distasteful excuse they could try to put together. In the eyes of the nation, both Ramotar and Jagdeo emerge looking extremely desperate and clutching at anything possible to save face, even if that means clutching to untruths. This is the Opposition doing what they do best, trying to hoodwink the nation,” expressed the economist.
Also in support of Dr. Thomas’ position was head of GuySuCo’s Diversification Unit, Tony Vieira.
Vieira categorically stated that the US$200m Skeldon Factory cannot depreciate to such an extent in 17 months.
He said, “Ramotar and Jagdeo are just being plain wicked with their comments. When we took over Skeldon it was only producing 20,000 tonnes of sugar. That is what we inherited. When they brought Skeldon into being, they promised that it would produce 100,000 and that is yet to be seen.”
Vieira also made the point that Skeldon is the youngest of all the estates and it is the only one in such a horrendous condition.
He said, “Just imagine, it is the youngest of all the factories, and factories that are 17 and 18 years older are in far better condition. Skeldon could collapse on us at any minute. Given the state of affairs at Skeldon, it makes me question whether they really paid US$200M for that factory. If so, then how can such a young factory be in such a horrifying condition in less than eight years?”
Additionally, the infrastructural problems plaguing the Skeldon Factory have left some viewing it as a ticking time bomb that will detonate soon, unless tough but necessary decisions are taken.
Sharing this opinion was Dr. Thomas.
“Skeldon needs to be divested. We thought it would have been saved or salvaged by a mechanization project and that was not helpful. Then to get the costs down to competitive levels, moves were made to involve private cane farmers in supplying cane to Skeldon.
“That, too, did not work. The reality before us is that the factory has lots of faults; it is badly designed and poorly constructed. The factory is deteriorating. New steel is needed; some of the furnaces don’t work, some of the boilers don’t work… The factory is just not properly built. The cost for the repairs needed is about US$60M ($12B). It is that big of a disaster.”
“The auditors have said that that serious action has to be taken where Skeldon is concerned. The team, too, suggested that it has to be divested if not, the whole thing will eventually collapse on our hands and we won’t be able to produce any sugar. We have to make a decision. We either divest or watch it collapse.
“The PPP just wrecked the sector from top to bottom and we are trying to salvage what we can,” Dr. Thomas asserted.
“We are trying to find a way out but that is like trying to find a way out of a minefield. That is what the PPP left us with. Everything is in a nerve-wracking state. The sugar industry is a minefield and a crumbling edifice.
“But it must be made known that we don’t want to put people on the breadline. The Skeldon factory alone employs 1,789 workers. Hence we are working on finding the best possible solution to turning the factory and the sector around.”
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