Home Letters Current state of affairs prevailing at the four closed sugar estates
Guyanese, especially the dismissed sugar workers, are deeply worried about the current state of affairs prevailing at the four closed sugar estates: Skeldon, Rose Hall, Wales and Enmore. Some of these worrying issues are the progress made on the privatisation process, the current state of the closed estates and the investments in the three remaining estates.
These workers were made redundant without any prospects of alternative employment and they had earnestly hoped that privatisation would have opened some windows of opportunities for re-employment but with the Wales Estate closing its doors in late 2016 and the others in late 2017, unfortunately, their expectations are waning as the days uneventfully slip by. President Granger had promised them that “…we are also going to work…to make sure that the workers…are given a soft landing”. But it seems that the ‘landing’ was so ‘soft’ that there was no change in the pain, sufferings, trials and tribulations which the sugar workers have been undergoing and the coalition Government continues to be oblivious to them. These sugar workers are expendable! Over 70 letters of interest for privatisation were received and in November, 10 bids were received and PricewaterhouseCoopers was supposed to make recommendations to National Industrial and Commercial Investment Ltd (NICIL) and thence to Cabinet for the final decision. Until now, there is no feedback on the progress of this part of the process. I wish to submit that there was no strong intention to privatise or to make GuySuCo profitable, it was an excuse to further squander monies, provide fodder for corruption and to destroy the support base of the PPP. It is unimaginable to fathom the extent to which this coalition can go. The dismissed workers are more convinced about this than ever before!
Moreover, the current deplorable and damaged state of these estates would accentuate and add credibility to this perception. There is an abundance of evidence available which will prove that these closed estates were simply abandoned and the machinery and equipment are being sold off as though they are the personal properties of certain individuals attached to the Special Purpose Unit of NICIL. Furthermore, billions of dollars of sugarcanes are now permanently destroyed and beyond salvage since there is no possibility that these canes can ever produce any sugar or molasses. Vital infrastructures are falling apart. In addition, equipment in good condition worth millions is sold as scrap at certain locations. For example, at Rose Hall Estate, working tractors were sold as scrap to a contractor employed by the SPU. There is massive corruption going on and some GuySuCo Managers are aware of this but are afraid to speak out since the SPU has total control over the closed estates. I will not be surprised when the time comes that these closed estates are not sold and remain inoperable. This fiasco reminds me of Humpty Dumpty and the kings’ men.
Another fact which points to the coalition’s lack of intent to make GuySuCo profitable is that fact that despite accessing a $30 billion syndicated loan to install 2 co-generation plants, upgrade the 3 operational factories to produce plantation white sugar, expand the storage and packing facilities and offset some operational costs, little or nothing has been done. Can you imagine that a $30 billion loan was acquired without any feasibility study being done? Only a few months ago a feasibility study was done! This coalition Government always seems to put the “cart before the horse”. It must now be submitted that these investments will never take place in the near future, once again banishing the hopes of the sugar workers and destroying the possibility of making GuySuCo profitable again.
The closure of these estates created an unprecedented economic tsunami, over 7000 sugar workers were dismissed, haemorrhaging the economy by over $118 billion, reducing production by nearly 50 per cent, losing nearly the same amount in foreign exchange and creating a multitude of social problems. All of this just to save a wage bill of $5 billion. However, I must compliment Minister Holder, who had said that it will take a capital investment of $12 billion to make GuySuCo operable but the coalition, through the SPU, thought differently. What a disgrace that after four years in Government, the problems in GuySuCo are getting further away from any solutions. The opportunity cost is simply devastating. No finance Minister in his right frame of mind would have made such a gigantic blunder, it’s not economics, simply coalition politics.
In conclusion, the coalition spin doctor, Moses Nagamootoo, had tried to sell dreams to the sugar workers when he bluffed them that, “We want you to have confidence that we will not abandon you, we will not let you loose and we will work on all fronts to bring about some benefits so you can start meaningful activities in your life for your family”. Indeed, the sugar workers were “abandoned” and “let loose” and today his silence speaks volumes!