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Govt invites “workable” Guysuco rescue plan from PPP, sugar unions, others- Harmon

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Friday slammed the opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) for failing to propose a rescue plan for the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco), even as he said government was willing to accept a “workable” plan from other stakeholders at a time when there is exciting interest from prospective investors.

“What is important to note is that we have an opposition that continues to make all sorts of statements, that when it was necessary for them to put on the table their plans for the industry, there was nothing there,” Harmon said. He added that instead of presenting a plan that political party called for an impact assessment study to be done. However, Harmon countered that idea, saying that the PPP had been in office from 1992 to 2015 and should  be in a position to design a plan for the industry instead of criticising the administration at news conferences.

“When it actually comes to actually putting down a plan of action, there is where the chatter become silent…Let us meet, let us see what it is that you have,” he said. “You claim to had all the experience over all these years, well put your plan on the table let us examine it because we are still prepared to engage at the level of the government. We are still prepared even after we would have taken certain steps that are consistent with that plan which we laid out to the Stakeholders Forum in December, 2016,” he added.

He recalled that the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) had proposed a plan to government in 2016 that was aimed at boosting production and retaining jobs, but the Granger-led administration went ahead and began closing Wales Estate, the first of four although a Commission of Inquiry had not recommended closure of any of the operations. “We are asking the other stakeholders at the table here to produce your plan and let us work together in the interest of this country, in the interest of the industry ensure that we have something that is workable,” he said.

Government’s signal that it was willing to consider alternative plans came less than one month after it retrenched about 4,000 workers resulting from the closure of Skeldon, Rose Hall, Enmore and Wales estates. He restated that government was examining what aspects of ministerial budgets could be cut to pay GY$2 billion in severance by month-end and the remaining GY$2 billion in the second half of 2018.

In apparent reference to the privately-owned Demerara Distillers Limited’s (DDL) interest in investing in the now closed Enmore Estate to maintain its molasses supply for its booming rum export market, the State Minister said the Special Purpose Unit of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) that has been set up to oversee the valuation and sale of some of Guysuco’s assets has been receiving very good expressions of interest. “There is significant enthusiasm by foreign and local companies for the divestment of the assets of Guysuco,” he said.

The East Berbice rice company, Nand Persaud, has also indicated that it is willing to take over the Skeldon Sugar operations

A globally-recognised United States-headquartered beverage company is said to be among those interested in the Skeldon Estate with a view to producing refined sugar.