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Shut down or privatise loss-making sugar estates- City Chamber boss

Outgoing President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Clinton Urling

Despite throwing its support behind a “steady,attractive,and people friendly ” 2014 budget , the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) has made several proposals of its own including the diversification of the troubled Guyana Sugar corporation (GuySuco).

Speaking  on behalf of the commercial umbrella body at its Waterloo Street boardroom in the city  outgoing President f the GCCI, Clinton Urling told members of the media Friday that the budget presented by Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh on Monday “can be summed up as a continuance and extension of the previous two budgets under the Donald Ramotar administration”.

However , while noting that the budget builds on the achievements of its predecessors , the GCCI is of the opinion that the government should undertake several critical improvements to various sectors of the economy as it undertakes public spending in  he coming fiscal year.

On this note , Urling said the authorities should “diversify Guysuco to make it an effective agency”. He suggested the authorities carefully analyse the state of the sugar corporation , and according to him , moves to improve the sector can include the privatisation of several of the factories across the sugar belt or even closure of those which are not producing . He said, however, that scaling back of operations of the entity should be done in a structured manner.

According to Urling , while there may be planned moves by politicians to cut funding to the ailing corporation as the budget debates become imminent in the coming days , such moves “will not be logical ” since sugar remains an important aspect of the nation’s economy .

“GuySuco subsidy is necessary considering the state of the agency and the consequential social and economic consequences were it to stumble further “, he said adding that “annual government subsidies to Guysuco are an un-sustainable strategy and measres would have to be put in place to diversify the products manufactured by the entity”.

As regards public spending , Urling said the GCCI wished to see more initiatives which increase public spending and provided savings for the private sector to invest into the economy through expansion and new activities. He said a drop in corporate taxes to a figure of 5%, which occurred two yeras ago,saw corporate tax collection increase by 16% despite apprehension by some at the time.

In commending aspects of the budget , Urling stated that the $10,000 per child initiative aimed at assisting families annually was a good move . however , he said mechanisms needed to be put in place to ensure that the fund reaches its projected recipients in a effective manner.He said that a better option would have been to the sum being added to the salaries of public servants ,including teachers , police officers and members of the disciplined services  as well as nurses .

“This measure also raises the question as to whether the monies allocated could not have been allocated to increase teacher’s salaries or increase the salaries of the Guyana Police Force “, Urling noted.

As regards remittances , he said that the government should keep an eye on the decrease of the foreign aid which was US$141.1M less last year as compared to the previous year.

In addition he stated that planned spending for various sectors is commendable . “proportions for sector allocations are trending in  the right direction with education,health ,security and infrastructural upgrades topping the list”. He described them as important social and infrastructural upgrades which are necessary for a stable and prosperous society.

Meanwhile , the GCCI is expected to name its new head when the body votes next Thursday . Following its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Wednesday , 21 members were elected to the council for the year 2014/2015.

The new Executive Management Committee will be elected on Thursday, the GCCI stated in a release Friday.