Speaking to reporters, on the sidelines of the opening of the National Dialogue on the thirty-fifth Regional Conference of Latin America and the Caribbean and Accountability of the FAO’s stewardship workshop held at Regency Suites, Brickdam, Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, yesterday confirmed that the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is no longer under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture.
“GuySuCo is vested in National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL). NICIL falls under the Ministry of Finance. In short, GuySuCo has been removed from the ambits of agriculture to the Ministry of Finance,” Minister Holder stated.
In late December, a publication of the Official Gazette disclosed that under the Third Schedule, all shares issued by GuySuCo which are owned or held by the corporation or the state or any other state corporation or agency is being transferred to NICIL.
It means that in addition to the three estates of GuySuCo- Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt-, NICIL also has control of the four others which has been closed- Skeldon, Rose Hall, Enmore and Wales.
The last four have been placed under the Special Purpose Unit, which was established by NICIL last year to oversee the divestment and privatization process.
The closure of the four estates and sending home of more than 4,000 workers by GuySuCo last year angered the administration which claimed that although it was aware some actions were being taken, Cabinet was not briefed.
With 16,000-plus workers, making redundant over 4,000 workers always would have sparked political and other fallouts.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, had expressed worry over the redundancy of the workers. He said that the matter was not discussed at the Cabinet level despite of the obvious implications.
Government is currently considering names for a new Board of Directors for GuySuCo, to replace the expired one headed by Professor Clive Thomas.
According to Minister Holder yesterday, the decision to re-open the two estates- Skeldon and Enmore– temporarily has nothing to do with government’s regret at its earlier decisions, but rather a matter of the SPU which is the agency established by NICIL to pursue the privatisation of the sugar estates, exercising its options.
“It has nothing to do with government per se. We have been informed that under the previous administration some big companies were interested in taking over the sugar industry. The government apparently didn’t go along with that, so these companies pulled out.
Some of them are expressing interest. In short, it probably wouldn’t be for sugar but perhaps canned cane juice or something of that sort. I believe the Special Purpose Unit [SPU] thinks that if they attempt to divest an estate that is functional they will get a better deal than if it’s not,” Minister Holder explained.
In May 2017, the Government announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates and sell the Skeldon sugar factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo.
The industry has been sliding with just half of the workers turning out.
GuySuCo was selling sugar about three times it was producing and collecting billions of dollars annually in bailout, an untenable situation that was draining the treasuring the Coalition Government says.
Government is seeking several billions of dollars in loans and other financing to keep GuySuCo and the closed estates operational.
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