GAWU complains to IMF about lack of transparency in Sugar Estate divestment

– as IMF team in Guyana for Article IV consultation

The two sides meeting on Monday

A team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is in Guyana for its annual consultations, and the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) was given a chance to express its concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the divestment of the sugar estates.
In a statement, GAWU revealed that it met with the IMF on Monday and aired its concerns about the divestment process. A major concern of the Union was the lack of transparency, with GAWU complaining that its repeated requests for information, including a divestment plan being constantly alluded to by policymakers, has been met by deafening silence.
“We pointed out that the divestment would possibly be the largest in the nation’s history yet the Guyanese people were none the wiser about the value of the assets being put up for sale,” GAWU stated.
“Turning to the plans to recapitalise the operable estates, the GAWU reiterated its concerns about the apparent absence of a plan to guide the large sum secured. We shared that on several occasions, we asked the GuySuCo about its plan only to receive deafening silence.”
According to GAWU, it shared its worries with the IMF team that despite its good- intentioned best efforts, GuySuCo and the Government at large continue to shut it out from being knowledgeable about the Corporation’s plans.
“The GAWU expressed that it recognised President David Granger just last week referring to a plan. We noted that the President had said, according to media reports we saw, that the Corporation was not operating by guesswork or hunches.”
Other concerns GAWU shared had to do with the welfare of sugar workers. According to GAWU, the State has rendered no assistance to workers and communities affected by the closure of the sugar estates, other than the severance payouts. The Union reminded that even with that, it had to approach the courts to get Government to honour its legal obligation of paying severance.
“We reminded the IMF that its 2017 Article IV report on Guyana had urged the Government to ensure that displaced sugar workers be protected by appropriate safety nets. We pointed out that since the estate closures, many affected remain hard-pressed and finding themselves in difficult and miserable situations.
“We shared that in some instances, children’s schooling has been truncated and families have disintegrated. Moreover, the opportunities for employment remain almost non-existent,” GAWU revealed of its meeting with the IMF.
GAWU noted that during the engagement with the six-member IMF team, its views were sought about what was taking place in other areas of the agricultural sector. The Union noted that it expressed its views on the rice, poultry and fishing industries and the oil and gas sector.
“On that matter, the GAWU shared its view that it appeared we were least prepared at this time to effectively deal with the (oil) industry and what it could bring to the proverbial table. We also shared view about the possibility of inequality between the oil and non-oil sectors of the economy and its ramifications for wider societal issues.
“The team welcomed our forthright expressions and committed to examining our suggestions in finer detail. The GAWU, for many years now, has been interacting with the IMF during its annual country visits. We have found those interactions as worthwhile and provide us yet another opportunity to represent our members and the workers of Guyana generally,” the Union said.
The IMF usually holds bilateral discussions with members every year under Article IV of the IMF’s Articles of Agreement. During these discussions, a staff team visits the country, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country’s economic developments and policies.
Upon returning to headquarters, the staff prepares a report that forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board.