I had written in the media on October 11, 2019, that profitability should not have been the sole criterion for the closure of the estates and that has always been the position of the PPP/C in Government and as the Opposition.
The Leader of the Opposition is emphatic that the focus should have been on the economic viability and he succinctly pointed out the numerous economic benefits as well as the devastating effects of the multiplier effect. The closure of the estates have cost the economy more than it has saved but the coalition was not only trigger happy but greedy as well!
In direct contravention of sound economic policies, the coalition took no time to shutter four estates and ‘wrong sized’ the remaining three to the point of utter destruction. In this letter, I will be dealing with the APNU/AFC‘s deliberate and vindictive acts to obliterate sugar from the economic landscape of Guyana.
It must be recalled that in May 2017, the coalition Government prepared and presented in Parliament a ‘White Paper’ on sugar in which they embarked on their journey of deceit to paint a good picture of how they would return the sugar industry to profitability.
This was a deliberate smokescreen to camouflage its callous closure of the four estates and firing over 7000 workers. The restructure was supposed to produce 147,000 tons of sugar to satisfy the local and foreign markets. Over 2 years later, the sugar industry is still struggling to produce a mere 100,000 tons after spending $12 billion subsidies and $17.6 billion from the $30 billion bond.
In this ‘White Paper’ the Government admitted that the sugar industry made an “invaluable contribution” over the years and yet they deliberately destroyed the same industry. Moreover, the Paper did not address the negative social and economic impacts due to the closure of the estates since the sugar workers are expendable. The promise to upgrade and embark on co-generation and the production of plantation white sugar are yet to be put in motion.
But what is more appalling is the fact that the shuttered estates, both the factories and the fields, have been destroyed to such an extent that no investor will ever pursue it as an investment. This is to make them viable to cronies and party hacks at grossly undervalued prices. We have seen a typical example at Wales.
In addition, the machinery and equipment at these estates have been the subject of much corruption, where operational machinery and equipment have been sold as scrap, again to cronies. It would seem that the ‘White Paper’ was only meant to legitimise these corrupt acts through the Special Purpose Unit, another corrupt arm of the coalition Government.
Despite all these corrupt acts and failed economic policies, the Government is still trying to blame the PPP/C for the current failures. A Government Member of Parliament sought to blame the PPP/C for acts of sabotage at the Estates, especially Albion Estate, when she claimed on the Chat Group, Moving Guyana Forward, that workers at the Albion Factory were deliberately throwing away cane juice.
She ridiculously claimed that was the reason why the Estate cannot achieve its target. She said that this was told to her by some employees! Of course, she failed to investigate the matter. Had she done that she would have realised that: substandard and old parts are being used in the factory, resulting in frequent breakdowns and time lost, the old and substandard valves and seals break frequently causing cane juice to be spilt, and that her Government employed some geriatric PNC engineers who cannot even climb the factory steps and who are more asleep than awake! These are employed by the Head Office and furthermore, they employed a man on an electrical contract who should have been dismissed when he burnt eight motors costing millions of dollars.
He went on pension this year and was immediately hired on contract. The job he is now doing was done before by the Factory Workshop. It can be seen that jobs for the ‘boys’ have also contributed immensely to the downward spiral of GuySuCo! It is clear that GuySuCo has now become the nursing home for the retired PNC hacks and the vacation destination for others. The coalition is not responsible to give a wage increase to sugar workers but they can dump their garbage there!
Lastly, this coalition has spent $32 billion in ‘bailouts’ and $17.6 billion from a $30 billion bond, a total of $49.6 billion and everything has fallen apart! That amount of money could have subsidised the entire GuySuCo, inclusive of the closed estates for a period of at least 8 years, that is until 2023 and the economic and social devastation this nation is now plunged into would have been avoided.
Granger, it seems, had slept through his entire tenure as President since he has now awoken to the fact that to make the industry economically viable will take 3 to 4 years. This is what the PPP/C was saying all along and as seen above, the entire sugar industry could have been saved with the $49.6 billion wasted by his Government. It is worth noting that the PPP/C only spent $26 billion to keep the entire GuySuCo afloat for 5 years (2011-2015).
I could recall that the PPP/C in its 2015 manifesto had said that the sugar industry needed $20 billion to bring it back to viability and the Commission of Inquiry done by the coalition made a similar conclusion. The CoI never mentioned closure! I have no doubt that a PPP/C Government will be able to reopen the estates. They are not comprised of voodoo economists and Dr Irfaan Ali is a competent and world-class economist backed by a most competent team led by the maestro Jagdeo.