Jan 04, 2017 News
By Kiana Wilburg
Given Guyana’s continued reliance on primary production and the overall performance of its
traditional sectors, it is not likely that the APNU+AFC administration would be able to build a resilient economy by the next General and Regional Elections.
This is according to Finance Minister, Winston Jordan.
The Finance Minister said that government would have to set the ground work first, in order for this to be done. He said that with the recent budgets, this process has already started.
The economist said, “I don’t foresee the economy being resilient by 2020. We have to set the ground work. Sugar is still a major aspect of the Guyanese economy.”
With regard to the ailing sugar industry, the Finance Minister said that “unless Guyana is prepared to move away from sugar as we know it, into value added and take opportunities available in Caricom markets —but more particularly Brazil once we can get a road going there—” then the nation cannot expect a sudden turnaround in the way the economy responds to external shocks.
The Finance Minister said that Guyana would have to move away from primary production into the next stage of the value chain. He said it would also require that the Government put in place, climate resilient infrastructure and practices.
“We just won’t move from 50 years of doing the same thing into resilience. It has to be diversified and it has to be green and withstand shocks that are ever present when you are involved in primary production.”
He continued, “Even if you were able to produce all the sugar you desired, we would have trouble because we don’t have a captive market anymore. We have to go out there and hustle like everyone else. At no time, certainly in the post- independence period, were we able to produce sugar at a price that could have competed on the international market.”
Jordan added, “We always need some form of protection along the way. We had a long protection under the European Union artificial price which allowed us to stay in it for a very long time and perhaps it was a good or a bad thing.
“It perhaps was a bad thing in the sense that, were we forced to adjust using international prices as our benchmark then who knows; we might have been a different sugar entity today.”
It appears, however, that the new government is determined to change the way in which sugar production is done in Guyana.
Thousands of workers within the sugar sector will soon know their fate, as a Cabinet subcommittee has finally finished drafting its recommendations on the way forward with the industry.
This was confirmed recently by Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder.
Holder is a member of that subcommittee, which was established last year. Other members include Finance Minister Winston Jordan; Natural Resources Minister, Raphael Trotman; and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
Holder told this newspaper that the subcommittee has put together a paper with its recommendations which will go before Cabinet. He said that Cabinet will decide whether to keep or discard part or all of the options on the paper.
While he was not able to divulge a few of the suggestions on the way forward, he stated that they far exceed the expectations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has been calling on the authorities to reduce its billion-dollar bailouts to the sector.
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