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…says opportunity being missed to revive industry
…urges govt intervention to stop the slide
By Svetlana Marshall
Six months after the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government took Office, former President Donald Ramotar, who had lobbied for the revitalisation of sugar industry, said he is unimpressed with the management of the sector as he took a hit at the current managers, who he said are more concerned with expensive vehicles and huge salaries than returning the industry to economic viability.
“It is unfortunate that the team put up by the administration is not generating nor demonstrating any confidence that it is up to the challenge. It is not motivating workers nor managers at the middle level. All the signs are that they are old style managers who are more focused on prestige such as fancy expensive vehicles, huge salaries and expensive personal accommodation,” Ramotar said in a Letter to the Editor on Monday.
Approximately two months into Office, the Irfaan Ali Administration had registered its confidence in Financial Analyst Sasenarine Singh, and in doing so, appointed him acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Sugar Cooperation (GuySuCo) effective September 14, 2020, however, Ramotar, though not singling out any individual said the corporation’s employment practices do not seem to be searching for the most skilled and experienced managers, but for cronies who can sing the praises to the boss.
“Egoism is now more dominant than finding the best,” the former President posited.
Just last December, General Manager of Skeldon Sugar Estate, Vishnu Panday was forced to hand in his resignation due to interference and the display of great nepotism.
Ramotar said it is time Government pays close attention to what is taking place at GuySuCo.
“If this is not done then the point would be reached where the government would look for the easy way out and accept privatization of the industry. They would say we tried, we have put in a lot of money but it has not work therefore we have no other option but to sell out the industry. That would be a huge collective slap in our faces and a great let down to our ancestors who invested their life’s blood in sugar,” the former President said.
This year, the PPP/C Government intends to pump $2B into GuySuCo to finance capital projects. The sum would complement the $7B injected into the industry approximately four months ago. However, Ramotar said it is more than just pumping money into the industry.
“…the industry needs much more than money to make it viable, to allow it to contribute to our country’s all-round development. Things cannot be done in the same old way. The industry needs to be restructured, reorganized as much as it needs financial inputs at this stage. Not to reorganize this could end up just throwing money at the problem without tangible results,” Ramotar opined.
He posited that the first step to turning the industry around should have involved the pooling of experts in the industry including experienced field and factory persons, and those with enormous practical experience.
Given the fact that the sugar corporation is strap for cash, Ramotar said there should have been an early move to cut the super salaries usually associated with the industry. “This would have ensured that GuySuCo and the country would have benefited from people who were committed to the industry and the country. That kind of motivation and commitment would have been an important indication of success,” the former President posited.
Lobbying for a “new type of management” for the Sugar Industry, Ramotar said it cannot be business as usual, as he made a pitch for the democratising of management.
“Ensure that machinery be created to give workers an opportunity to say how things were being run and how they could be improved. This is a great resource since workers who gave all their lives to the industry have acquired vast knowledge that should be harnessed in an organized way to benefit the industry. This invaluable resource/knowledge has been mostly ignored in the past and is being ignored now,” he said.
He said one such way, is by giving workers a greater stake in the industry through the creation of cooperatives. This, he said, would require offering them technical assistance on how to run a worker cooperative.
“To give the lands to these workers in groups to produce canes for the publicly owned factories. This would be real help in improving workers conditions and helps to make them more than just depending on wages but being also shareholders. This is one way of allowing workers to be owners as well,” he further posited.
In doing so, Ramotar said Management would have to opportunity to focus on developing new products, increasing revenues streams and building new relationship such as joint ventures for a new distilling and refining facilities, co-generation and the making of ethanol among other measures.
“The cane industry of India and Cuba has vast experience in new products and we can benefit from their technologies since this country has many cooperation agreements with both those states. I’m sure both will be most willing to work along with us,” Ramotar said.
According to him, GuySuCo was making significant steps under the stewardship of Dr. Rajendra Singh, however, things changed when Singh was sacked shortly after the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Government took Office in 2015.
“Possibilities of saving millions in fertilizers by producing liquid fertilizer as is done in India. This was already in train five years ago. Much money could also be saved by compressing garbage and burn them in the broiler to start up factories. This too amounts to substantial savings from not buying wood to do the same job. Guysuco and IAST had done a lot in this area. The compressed baggase was far more efficient and a fraction of the cost of wood,” he posited.
At the level of procurement, he said workers and their unions can play an important oversight role to ensure that the corporation and the country is making the best and most sensible use of scarce financial resources.
Ramotar also condemned the move by exorbitant prices. Last year, it was revealed that GuySuCo had procured 44 tractors at a total cost of $1.2B, however, the former President said the money could have been better spent.
“…GuySuCo has records and experience with very good machinery at far less cost from other sources.
The Mahendra tractor from India is a very good piece of machinery at a fraction of the cost of what was being proposed. Therefore more equipment could have been purchased with the same money. However some people seemed determined to want the most expensive,” he said.
As a result, he said the workers and union should have an important oversight role to ensure value for money and the most optional way to use scarce financial resources.