Government on Thursday signaled that closure of a number of operations of the cash-strapped and highly-indebted Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco) is one of the options to be considered by a Cabinet sub-committee before year-end.
“All of these are the options; these are all options because if you are going close down anything you have to consider the workers and how you deal with them…we are still in early days where that is concerned,” Minister of State, Joseph Harmon told reporters when asked whether the 2017 National Budget takes into account severance for GuySuco’s workers.
After top GuySuco officials gave Cabinet an extensive briefing on the state of sugar industry and the options ranging from “doing nothing” and leaving the Corporation in its present state to “a limited form of diversification,” a sub-committee made of the ministers of agriculture, finance, natural resources and state has been established to consider the next step.
The cabinet sub-committee is expected to submit its report by mid-November and “some decisions would have to be made about GuySuco before the end of 2016.”
Already saddled with a GYD$80 billion debt, GuySuco’s board and management told Cabinet that the corporation needs GYD$18.6 billion next year and GYD$21.4 in 2018 to be maintained in the same condition. The Minister of State acknowledged that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be concerned about bailouts to the corporation because it “would basically be skewing the whole economic plans and economic arrangements of the country when you put so much money into an industry where the people in the industry themselves are saying that this is not a viable option if you do not change certain things in GuySuco.”
“We cannot to pour this type of money into an industry at the expense of the other developments which have to take place in the country such as developments in education, development in health, development in security and all of these things that relate to the happiness and good life of the people of this country,” added the Minister of State.
The Minister of State said after the sub-committee reports back to the wider executive decision-making body, consultations would be held with the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC), National Assembly, workers and workers representatives. “These consultations at the end of it might very well point you in a direction that is not consistent with what you thought of in the first instance,” Harmon said
Harmon said government was cautious about saying what the choices available are because the administration did not want send mixed signals and in the end such a decision would not be taken. At the same time, he stressed the importance of government securing countrywide buy-in of any decision concerning the future of the sugar industry.
“You have all of these communities that are affected by sugar. You have to go to all of these communities and get their buy-in so that’s important,” he said.
“It is always important that we be very careful and cautious in what it is that we announce there, that we put out there in the public because any wrong step, because of the nature of this industry; the number of persons who are employed in it, any wrong statement , any wrong step can send the wrong signal and create panic and confusion,” he said
Harmon said GuySuco was still a “going entity” and was still tasked with finding markets and reducing its cost of operations.
Government has already closed Wales Estate, although a Commission of Inquiry did not recommend it cease operations.