Gov’t appoints sub-committee to study all options on way forward for GuySuCo

GINA, GUYANA, Thursday, November 3, 2016

No option is to be ruled out as a Cabinet sub-committee is appointed to examine the way forward for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), according to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, who today announced the sub-committee’s formation.

Addressing the media at a post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency today, Minister Harmon explained that the Cabinet sub-committee which comprises himself, Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder; Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan; and Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman will take into consideration the continuum of options that was raised by a team from GuySuCo to Cabinet at its meeting on November 1.

Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon.

Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon.

According to Minister Harmon, Cabinet devoted several hours of that meeting to dealing with GuySuC0’s matters, and during that meeting, Cabinet was briefed by a team from the corporation headed by the Chairman of the Board of Directors, on the state of the sugar industry, the challenges it faces and the options that are available to address those challenges.

Minister Harmon said that the presentation to Cabinet gave consideration to the matters which ranged from “maintaining the status quo at GuySuCo (doing nothing and allowing the corporation to go as it), to a point of a limited form of diversification.”

Along with the two continuums of opportunities, there were several proposals which were made, but the position that was taken by GuySuCo itself was that “the worst option was to maintain the status quo, since in that regard there was serious implications for the national treasury.”

According to Minister Harmon, those implications are that “it will require $18.6Billion in 2017 and $21.4Billion in 2018 just to maintain the status quo,” and added to this is, the current debt which GuySuCo has (in excess of $80Billion).

“Cabinet listened very carefully to the presentation, made it owns comments and questioned the presenters, after which Cabinet thanked the team for the frank and forthright presentation, and indicated its intention to give urgent consideration to the issues raised and the advice offered,” Minister Harmon said, as he explained the move to establish the Cabinet sub-committee to address the issues.

Minister Harmon also explained that the sub-committee will present its report to Cabinet within two weeks, as to the way forward, but that, “It is clear from what we have seen that some decisions would have to be made about GuySuCo before the end of December 2016.”

Questioned further about some of the options that the Cabinet sub-committee will be considering as part of the process, and more particular about whether these will include closure of more estates, the Minister said that he would not want to be specific on these options, but later added that “none of the options we have at this point are ruled out, because they came out of a process into GuySuCo. They came out of a Commission of Inquiry, they came out of a special team of persons looking into various aspects into the operations of GuySuCo… so we would like to give serious considerations to these recommendations,” the Minister said.

The Minister did not say whether closure of more estates was or was not an option saying “…it is not always good to go about saying these are the options because you will very well  find sometime at the end of your deliberation that you come up with a conclusion that is not consistent with your earlier position.”

He also noted that, “it is always important that we be  careful in what we put out there in the public because any wrong step, because of the nature of the industry, because of the number of persons who are employed, any wrong statement can send the wrong signal and create panic and confusion, and so it is important that we be very careful and deliberate in how we deal with the information that has been presented to us, and that is why I would not venture to go beyond those statements that were made,” he said.

GuySuCo’s recent presentation to Cabinet formed part of a process that was outlined by Cabinet, following the handing over of a report (to Cabinet) by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) last year.

Minister Harmon recalled that after Cabinet was briefed by that inquiry team, Cabinet arrived at a five-point approach to address the issues raised by the COI. These five points were that GuySuCo must present to Cabinet a plan which addresses the issues raised by the COI, that Cabinet would give consideration to that plan, that having considered the plan that Cabinet would engage the opposition and the National Assembly in consultations on the plan, and Cabinet also mandated that consultation be held with other stakeholders including the sugar workers and their families.

 

By: Macalia Santos

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