…as Party conducts Berbice outreach
Emphasising that sugar in Guyana is not a company but an industry, and that Government needs to be more thoughtful when making decisions about that industry, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has declared: “No viable decision can be made without a feasibility study. So this (closing down estates) is a political decision. The fact that they shut down the factory at Skeldon for the first crop is in preparation for privatization.”
Addressing thousands gathered at the wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 20th death anniversary of the late Dr. Cheddi B. Jagan – an annual event held at the Babu Jaan Memorial Site at Port Mourant on the Corentyne in Berbice – the Opposition Leader disclosed that the privatisation deal is being orchestrated by a close relative of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, whose involvement will likely come at a cost.
He said, too, that while Government has been saying that the Skeldon Sugar Factory was a bad deal made by the previous administration, the Prime Minister now has a close relative lobbying to have investors buy it.
Jagdeo also questioned the Government’s unwillingness to save thousands of jobs sustained by the sugar industry, and the reasoning behind this unwillingness. “Government did not spend too much money on the Skeldon Sugar Factory. If we spent too much on sugar, how is it that, in 2015 and 2016, the Gold Board lost $27B? That is more that the entire cost of the entire Skeldon factory; and Banks DIH is suing the Government for $28B because of a decision they made to give DDL some tax write-offs. The lawsuit alone will cost us more that the cost for the entire Skeldon factory. How can they find fiscal space for those reasons and they can’t find fiscal space to help the sugar industry?”
Amidst the uncertainty over the future of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), with accusations of “secrecy” made against Government following an MoU struck with a Trinidadian company, the APNU/AFC Administration has faced even more backlash after it was revealed in late January that a close relative of Prime Minister and First Vice President, Moses Nagamootoo, is reportedly working to bring in investors for the cash-strapped sugar industry. The Skeldon Sugar Factory alone, which is located on that estate, is worth US$200 million, so the total value of the Estate would amount to billions.
Bauxite, but not sugar?
Meanwhile, Former Prime Minister Samuel Hinds addressed accusations that the People’s Progressive Party did to bauxite what the current administration is doing to sugar and sugar workers.
Hinds reminded the thousands gathered at the annual wreath-laying ceremony that when the PPP took office in 1992, bauxite was in a crisis. He underscored that the PPP Administration did not treat the bauxite industry differently from what they are now asking for the sugar industry.
“We came into office with the outgoing (People’s National Congress) PNC committing to close down the bauxite industry if it couldn’t be profitable in two years. Close it down! No more money was to flow from the country’s treasury to the bauxite industry. When we got the word from the consultants that they couldn’t see a way to make bauxite profitable, we didn’t run and close down the bauxite industry. If we were against the people of Linden, we had an excuse (to close the bauxite industry),” he highlighted
He explained, too, that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had had its eyes on Guyana in relation to recommendations to have the bauxite industry closed. “So we had to find innovative ways to keep bauxite going.”
Bauxite production in 2010 was 1,099,880 metric tonnes, declining by 348,431 metric tonnes, or 24 per cent. The former Head of State noted that just as the PPP Administration tried to keep alive the failing bauxite industry although a feasible study had suggested that the industry be closed, it is similarly fighting for the sugar industry to stay alive. At commencement of the ceremony, Jagdeo, Hinds and former President Donald Ramotar all paid homage to the late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, and laid wreaths at a monument erected in honour of his life and contribution to Guyana; and in honour of his wife, former President Janet Jagan, who also died in the month of March.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo met with members of the Tain; Sand Reef, Albion; and Reliance, East Canje communities, who shared with the Opposition Leader their numerous concerns about the state of the country.