Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has debunked claims made by Government that under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) leadership, Guyana received $348 billion in European Union (EU) funding between 2006 and 2013, and did not utilise these funds properly or used them where they were most needed.
In fact, Jagdeo has rejected the statements as a “total falsehood”, stating that the contention being peddled that the EU paid to Guyana that huge sum of money as compensation for the 36 per cent cut in preferential market prices for sugar is far from the truth.
The former Head of State pointed out that the total sum paid to Guyana was approximately $30 billion. “Indeed, the final instalment of G$5.4 billion was paid to the coalition Government in October last year. The sum of G$348.5 billion is over ten times the sum actually received by Guyana,” he said in a statement.
Further, more than $30 billion was spent by the PPP/C Administration on the Skeldon Factory alone, Jagdeo said, while making a commitment to address this issue more expansively upon his return to Guyana later this week. Jagdeo is currently on a visit to New York, where he is meeting with the Guyanese Diaspora.
Meanwhile, former Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy also commented on the issue, labelling the Government’s statement as a blatant attempt to distort the truth.
“The fact is the EU provided budgetary support to be allocated over several sectors. Sugar and infrastructure were priority areas for support. The PPP Government provided support to Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for over $30 billion during that time, much more than the EU could have provided for sugar,” Dr Ramsammy said.
The former Minister said the statement that Guyana received $348 billion was a “fantasy”.
Dr Ramsammy has since called on the EU to correct what he described as “misinformation”.
Last week, during the post-Cabinet press briefing, Minister of State, Joseph Harmon had said that the PPP/C received $348 billion, which was supposed to have been plugged into projects that would make GuySuCo more competitive as well as be able to explore diversification.
Harmon claimed that if the money was spent on the sugar industry, Guyana would not be facing the situation of having to bail out GuySuCo to the tune of billions of dollars annually.
Also last week, the EU announced the closure of its funding programme, which saw Guyana benefiting from billions in budgetary support to aid in sugar sector reform.
EU Ambassador to Guyana, Jernej Videti? said while the last grant was issued in 2013, it was not released to Guyana until last year after the country failed to meet the necessary criteria required.
The EU Sugar Grant was established to compensate for the 36 per cent cut in preferential market price after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had ruled that the preferential market access violated global free trade rules.
A total of 1.28 billion euros were allocated for disbursement to the sugar protocol countries benefiting from the programme to help them adapt to the new market conditions. Guyana received its first instalment in 2006.
The Guyana Government has moved to downsize and diversify the sugar industry. However, this move has since attracted countrywide protest action with many, including the parliamentary Opposition and the largest sugar workers representative body, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), calling on the coalition Administration to reverse its decision.
Agriculture Minister Noel Holder recently presented a “White Paper on the Future of the Sugar Industry” to the National Assembly, revealing plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo.