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Government unsure of sugar industry’s direction- Komal Chand

Head of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) addressing the National Assembly on Wednesday, August 19, 2015.

Opposition member and Head of the Guyana Agricultural and Industrial Workers’ Union (GAWU), Komal Chand feels that the government is unsure about the direction of the ailing sugar industry- gotten rid of continue to nurse it back to economic health.

Chand was making his contribution to the 2015 Budget debates at Parliament Wednesday August 19 when he quoted various statements by government-aligned stakeholders in the sugar industry which could be interpreted as them having different views on where the industry should go.

Chand reminded that the Finance Minister, Winston Jordan said during his budget speech that the economic well-being of sugar sector is critical for jobs and the economy. He pointed out, however, that Jordan later said in his speech that, “whatever path of the industry takes, it is vital for the sake of the national economy to remain viable and able to compete on the global market.”

He went on to point out that President David Granger on the campaign trail related to sugar saying, “There is no quick fix. We will not destroy the industry,” stating that it was too big to fail. In this context support from Chand and his party will be given to the allocations for the sector.

However his concern on the path of the sugar is related to a letter in one of the dailies claiming that the new Chairman of the sugar industry, Professor Clive Thomas had stated that the industry should be “sold” or “used for other purposes.”

To this, the GAWU head said that the Finance Minister might be “uncertain of the path of the industry.” He continued that unions in the industry, “do not agree with the divestment of the industry fully or partially,” before noting that it will not be economically sound.

Chand said that in the past, whether under the People’s National Congress (PNC) or the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which to date enjoys consistent support from sugar workers; has been confronted by very difficult challenges, but has demonstrated resilience in rising.

He said the industry will rise again before reiterating many of the aid strategies that are being touted for its return to self support and then profitability. 

Chand, a longstanding member of the sugar fraternity, focused his presentation on the sugar sector, reaffirming his position and that of his PPP that the sugar industry should continue operations. He supported the $12b allocation for the sugar industry in the 2015 budget, calling for that money’s earliest release to the industry, along with another $4.7b under the EU sugar sector budget support program to be transferred to industry to improve capacity. The European Union has said that Guyana first has to meet transparency and accountability conditions before drawing down the budgetary support.

A Commission of Inquiry will next month announce its findings and recommendations about the future of the cash-strapped, low-producing Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuco). Tate and Lyle sugars , Guyana’s largest sugar buyer in Europe, has forecast a bleak future for cane sugar especially when Europe’s beet sugar industry is deregulated in 2017.