As a major stakeholder in the ailing sugar industry; representing thousands of workers, the Guyana Agriculture and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) is disappointed that the government failed to apprise the body of the removal of the former Chief Executive Officer, Dr Rajendra Singh and the subsequent placement of an Interim Management Committee (IMC) to manage the affairs of the cash-strapped entity.
GAWU President Komal Chand told Demerara Waves Friday June 5 that he is unaware as to who are the persons now temporarily running the Guyana Sugar Industry (GuySuCo). He said, “We are dissatisfied that as a major stakeholder, we were not appraised. We ought to have been appraised of what is happening.”
The President noted, however, that he is looking forward to the government or relevant body engaging the union and hopes that is done soon.
Dr. Singh was fired earlier this week and the Board of Directors ordered to resign, amid growing concerns about the dire financial straits facing the company. Running the company in the interim are former Chief Executive Officers Errol Hanoman and Paul Bhim.
Meanwhile, GAWU is urging the European Union to release the more than $4.7B slated for the industry through budgetary support. In a public missive the union is pushing that the government move now to address the issues of the sugar industry.
GAWU said its concerns of GuySuCo’s continued financial difficulties have heightened. The agency said it is “aware that GuySuCo is yet to receive the €20.2 million (G$4.76B) that has been earned under the European Union (EU) sugar sector budget support programme although GuySuCo met the indicators required to qualify for this sum of grants.”
The EU Mission in Guyana had started in January, 2015- at a time when the Parliament had been prorogued- that the disbursement of €28.9 million for the sugar sector had been “temporarily put on hold until all eligibility criteria, inter alia budget oversight, are satisfactorily addressed.” That essentially meant that there was no parliamentary oversight.The new Administration is set to reopen Parliament on Wednesday June 10.
“GAWU calls on the Government of Guyana to take urgent steps, given the obtaining circumstances, to ensure that these grants are received from the EU, and that this sum is paid over and immediately in full to GuySuCo for use in the sugar industry,” states the union which is closely aligned to the main opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP).
The union said that the government, although quite recent, should not be totally at sea on this question or of the industry’s challenges and emphasized that thousands of workers in the sugar industry and their families’ livelihoods are threatened. They said that delay to pursue the EU money, in the current situation, would be unforgiveable.
However this EU sum has been withheld from GuySuCo since there had been no Parliament and the money had existed under the previous Administration. Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder while addressing a recent closure of the industry which was averted, had stated that the EU fund was available but because of the closure of Parliament which resulted from its prorogation by former President Donald Ramotar, the EU was not willing to release the money without Parliamentary oversight.