(www.guyanachronicle.com) THE outgoing President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Mr Clinton Urling, called last week for the gradual privatisation of underperforming sugar estates. This is his recommended solution to addressing the industry’s problems.But Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy has made it clear that this is not the way to go.
In an invited comment yesterday, the minister said, “I am confident that the challenges GuySuCo (the Guyana Sugar Corporation) faces will be addressed. We must continue to implement the plan to surpass 400,000 tonnes of sugar and value added.
“The investment is significant, but the rewards exceed the sacrifice. It makes business sense to stay the course.”
Urling acknowledged the necessity of the $6B allocated to the industry in this year’s Budget, but contends that making annual allocations to GuySuCo is an unsustainable strategy. He said, “The Agriculture Ministry must get serious with GuySuCo and initiate steps for it to become an effective agency….
“Every year, you can’t keep running back to the Parliament or the national coffers for $6B. Underperforming estates can be sold or offered at concessionary rental to multinational firms looking to invest and set up their manufacturing and industrial operations here. This would absorb any employment that is lost as a result of the estates’ closing.”
The outgoing GCCI President maintains that privatisation should be undertaken strategically. He said, “It has to be done in a clear framework and strategy. If you can attract investors that can produce sugar at a cheaper and faster rate, then you privatise some of the estates, or sell them to a private firm looking to invest in other things, commodities.”
GuySuCo’s eight estates are at Wales and Uitvlugt in Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara); Enmore and La Bonne Intention (LBI) in Region Four (Demerara/ Mahaica); Blairmont in Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice); and Rose Hall, Albion, and Skeldon in Region Six (East Berbice/Corentyne).
The Agriculture Minister made it clear that GuySuCo is too important to Guyana’s economy and to the lives of thousands of people for reckless action to be taken in handling its affairs.
He said, “(We cannot) act recklessly and not ensure that GuySuCo is able to overcome the difficulties that it has been facing for some time now. The PPP/C (People’s Progressive Party/ Civic) Government will stand firm with the sugar workers, the union and the corporation in ensuring that sugar continues to play a positive role in our development.”
Dr Ramsammy pointed out that the welfare and livelihood of more than 18,000 employees and about 120,000 persons generally are at stake. He said, “The PPP/C Government will not be so uncaring and so reckless as to not consider the welfare of the industry and the people who directly and indirectly depend on the sugar industry.
“In spite of the growth of the economy as a whole, GuySuCo still is one of the largest components of Guyana’s economy, contributing about four per cent of the overall economy.
“Any responsible government or political party will need to provide critical support that GuySuCo requires at this time, not only for the sake of GuySuCo, but also for the sake of the overall economy.”
In the past, GuySuCo alone contributed almost 15 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Guyana. The Corporation’s monthly payroll amounts to about $500M, and almost $25B per year.
Written By Vanessa Narine