by Zena Henry
Former President Bharrat Jagdeo is not accepting blame for the failed Skeldon Sugar Factory stating that the then government acted based on information by from a technical team, Booker Tate which was hired to revitalize the ailing industry.
The US$200m Skeldon Factory was built during the Jagdeo administration and the former president had declared publicly that should the factory not work he would personally see that it did. During a press conference at Freedom House Tuesday August 11, the former president was asked about competence or a fault with his vision that saw the project not taking off.
He said, “There is a deal of incompetence.” According to him, Booker Tate, hired to manage the industry, advised that more of sugar production should shift to Berbice because of class one and two soils compare to Demerera estates. They were then told to up production by 400,000 ton for unit cost and cost per pound of sugar to be reduced.
He said after tender was out, Booker Tate recommended a Chinese company to build the factory. Apart from that, Jagdeo said Booker Tate was also hired as project managers for Skeldon and they were suppose to look at designs and overseeing the implementation of the project.
“We had major problems upon the completion of the factory.” He said the problems were numerous and the government refused to pay the company which later took them to court and won the case.
“The politicians went along with the technical issues. If this was done in Jagdeo’s office… if I had decided on this myself and come up with all these ideas, I will take full responsibility for it; we paid people to do it. And we sued them for this.”
The former president said, “The reality is Skeldon can still be fixed”, and the factory was a clear intention of commitment to the industry despite the problems.
Jagdeo called the current Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the sector as “political” before indicating that the government has its own plans for the industry.