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…official says govt begged him to stay on
Government has asked General Manager of Skeldon Sugar Estate, Vishnu Panday to stay on after he handed in his resignation over alleged nepotism and inteference.
Village Voice News was told that despite the estate not operating at full capacity government officials have been insisting that all of the severed workers be rehired. ” It is very frustrating and the interference is too much that is why he resigned. But they have asked him to stay on…I don’t know how long more he will stay ,” well placed sources told the Village Voice News on Tuesday.
Since returning to office the PPP/C government has been on an aggressive campaign to reopen some of the shuttered estates. This despite warnings of the unprofitability of the industry. “Everybody showing up for a job…everybody is being sent by someone, some minister is sheer interference,” the source familiar with the fallout between Panday and the government told this publication.
Village Voice News understands that a few external investors including persons from Dubai had visited the estate, which is up for sale but there have been no positive response.
“Things are limping along and it seems as though the government may have to go it alone…that is why we seeing them going to parliament for money. The money is to pay staff, not really for any upgrade of the estates,” the source who asked not to be named related.
The source was adamant that the intention of government is to just find money to pay their supporters- many of whom are the severed sugar workers.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), over the last 10 years, produced one ton of sugar at an average cost of US$747.38 at a time when the world market price for sugar stood at US$388.57. This was disclosed by the Government in response to a series of questions posed by the Opposition in the National Assembly. Based on the information provided, the sugar corporation has been operating at a loss when its total indebtedness as of August stood at $72.5B.
In his response to a series of questions posed by A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira, Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha said that while the average world market price for sugar for the last 10 years was US$388.57, Guyana’s sugar was sold at various prices based on the market.
He explained that GuySuCo sold one ton of sugar to the European Union (EU) at a cost of US$445.23; the USA, US$593.05; the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), US$581.30; Regional Non-CARICOM States, US$741.04; Australia, US$623.90; Italy, US$488.27; the Middle East, US$708.24 and the United Kingdom (UK), US$540.05.
Renowned Guyanese Economist, Dr. Clive Thomas, in an interview with Village Voice News recently, said at the heart of the plethora of challenges facing the Sugar Industry is the high cost of producing sugar. While the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration is adamant that with the right investment, GuySuCo could return to profitability, Dr Thomas, who served as Chairman of GuySuCo’s Board of Directors (2015-2018), is not so optimistic. He told Village Voice News that GuySuCo will never be viable unless a number of structural limitations are addressed.
“The gap between [the production] cost and [selling] price is so wide it can’t be just a simple issue of investing in this estate and that estate. It has to do with the scale of the industry, the structure of the industry,” he submitted.
Meanwhile, just three months after the House approved $3B for the ailing industry, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government was back in Parliament Monday seeking approval from the National Assembly for another $4B for GuySuCo and according to Minister, Mustapha, the funds will help the industry return to profitability.
Khemraj Ramjattan, the opposition shadow Agriculture Minister grilled Mustapha not only on the intended purpose of funds, but why the Government waited until the eleventh hour to request additional funds. Couldn’t the monies have been included in the National Budget passed in September?
In response Mustapha said the supplementary funds will be used to execute “critical” capital projects across the industry. He said the three estates in operation – Blairmont, Albion and Uitvlugt – are operating at a 60 per cent capacity, and as such, there is need for re-capitalisation to achieve 100% capacity.
Of the $4B being sought, $2.1B has been budgeted for the Albion Estate while approximately $518M has been set aside for the Blairmont Estate. The remainder will be spread across the other estates, and GuySuCo’s Headquarters.
The minister noted that works are currently ongoing at the three of the estates – Rose Hall, Skeldon and Enmore – that were closed by the APNU+AFC Administration, with the intention of having them reopened. He boasted that already 1000 of the once sacked sugar workers, have returned to the factory and fields and another 3,000 will be hired in 2021.