Split on sugar policy proves Govt’s incompetence – financial analyst

first_img…says “no cost attached to sufferings taking place in sugar belt” The squabble between the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) points to a major difference of opinion within Cabinet about the future of the sugar industry, which means it may take even longer for Government to decide on a unified sugar policy, says US-based financial analyst Sasenarine Singh.Singh also believes that the division among the coalition parties highlighted the Government’s incompetence in handling the industry. “Clearly, there is a difference of opinion within the Granger Government on how to handle GuySuCo and this is a manifestation of that difference of opinion. It makes the Government look extremely incompetent,” he asserted.The financial analyst said if anything, the Cabinet must be united on its policy measures and with regard to GuySuCo, it comes across extremely disunited.Singh, a former member of the Alliance For Change (AFC), the smaller coalition partner, said if he were in Government, he would have done things differently.He recalled that the previous People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration was pumping between $6 billion and $8 billion into the industry each year. At the end of the Party’s last three years in Government, it would have expended some $18 billion, but this had kept GuySuCo afloat.Singh noted, however, that the coalition Government had spent close to $38 billion in three years, reduced the industry’s staff by 7000, cut production by more than 55 per cent and spent twice the amount used to subsidise the industry on an annual basis.Former AFC member and financial analyst Sasenarine Singh“So we spent twice as much to destroy the industry when you could have pumped $18 billion in GuySuCo to keep it going. Nobody is going to deny that you’re pumping money into GuySuCo and nobody will deny that there were deficiencies that were brought forward from the PPP Govt.”But the former AFC member recognised that the major concern for most people was that GuySuCo was more than just a company, as it catered for a majority of the nation’s people. According to statistics, the sugar industry takes care of the needs of some 17,000 families.Already, there has been devastating news of how the downsizing and closure of three estates are causing severe hardships for the people who were once employed and their families. Many of those fired remain unemployed and are now turning to crime and other social ills.“Nobody is putting a cost to what’s happening there. The other thing that the Government is not telling anybody is that the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) has to pump billions into drainage and irrigation which GuySuCo used to take care of in the past. Just like the sport facilities, the medical services and the village community empowerment services.”SufferingSingh said if one were to visit Wales, West Bank Demerara, one would get a sense of what was happening in the communities that once relied on sugar for an income.“Go to Wales, it’s a ghost town. If people don’t have any income, they will turn to crime. What we have done is turn productive people into thieves, because we thought about reducing production … And yet GuySuCo is not more efficient today than it was in 2014. It is actually worse,” he added.Singh believes that the time will come when Guyana may have to import sugar because the industry has steeply declined and may get worse if not addressed soon enough. Generally, the industry has performed its worst in many decades. This year, production is projected at 91,000 tonnes.Newly-appointed GuySuCo Chairman John Dow had told Guyana Times in an interview that the aim was to improve infrastructure and purchase new equipment that would aid in increasing the industry’s performance. However, in order for this to happen, the Corporation would need capital.At present, GuySuCo is working to improve sugarcane yields to beyond 70 tonnes of cane per hectare. He has said if improvements in this area take place, then chances are this too can add to an overall improvement in production by the Corporation.Singh said, “I empathise with the new Chairman and Chief Executive Officer because I believe that they have been given a basket to fetch water. The damage has already been done and it’s hard to undo it. My understanding is that there were plans for the $30 billion bond. It’s unfortunate that the money was allegedly misappropriated which had nothing to do with the original plan.” (Samuel Sukhnandan)last_img read more