By Michael Younge
Confusion as to who is exactly in charge of making policies and determining the way forward for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) continued unabated today with Finance Minister Winston Jordan taking several swipes at his cabinet colleague Agriculture Minister Noel Holder while seeking to distance himself from the policy decisions that are being made with respect to estates that fall under the state entity’s remit.
Jordan, speaking at media conference held in the boardroom of the Finance Ministry, said that his Ministry is not responsible for the Agriculture sector nor the affairs of what he referred to as a “rump GuySuCo”. He insisted that the President has not tasked him with any additional responsibilities as far as he is aware with respect to providing policy leadership to that entity.
He argued that the National Industrial, Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL) was established as a holding company under the Ministry of the Finance that was tasked with retaining all Government shares and equities in a series of state entities and corporations.
“So NICIL has been doing just that with the exception of GuySuCo…GuySuCo continues to remain independent….all of the other entities fall under NICIL”, he remarked.
“So I don’t quite understand now when the shares of GuySuCo have finally been transferred to NICIL that that makes me…the Minister of Finance responsible for GuySuCo”, he said rhetorically.
He said that he is only responsible for the policies of the Guyana Oil Company and the Guyana National Shipping Company while other Ministers are responsible for GuySuCo, the Guyana Printers Limited and the Guyana National Newspapers Limited which also form part of NICIL.
“The official gazette clearly outlines my responsibilities and clearly outlines those of the Minister of Agriculture”, he said.
He said that Minister Noel Holder who represents the Alliance for Change party in Government is in charge of a rump GuySuCo.
“…that is a GuySuCo that has been stripped of all of the estates that will not form part of it anymore…stripped of NDIA…stripped of the health (responsibility)…stripped of all of the other welfare matters…and what has been left is the three estates (that form the rump GuySuCo)…that belongs to the Minister of Agriculture”, Jordan said with a smirk.
The Finance Minister said sternly “what has been sent to NICIL belongs to me via NICIL..”. He remarked that the SPU which he manages has been mandated to keep Minister Holder’s rump GuySuCo afloat hence its decision to secure the $30B syndicated bond which will be reinvested in the factories and field so that operations at both the closed and functional estates can continue.
“I am not going to be taking on responsibilities that are not mine…I am not in the market for anybody’s responsibilities”, Jordan said as he took a direct jab at Minister Holder who has been complaining about the micromanagement of his portfolio and the strategic yet clandestine removal of GuySuCo from the AFC’s remit.
The Finance Minister also created more confusion when he announced that Clive Thomas was still the Chairman of the GuySuCo board even though NICIL which falls under his remit published a full page advertisement and cabinet decision which identified SPU Head Colvis Heath-London as the new Chairman.
Jordan, who shied away from answering questions directly, said the life of the board which Thomas heads ends this month-end and then it is Holder’s responsibility to submit names of the new board.
“I don’t why NICIL put that ad in the papers…I was travelling so often. What ad they had in the papers?”, the Minister responded as he deliberately sought to downplay the fact that there is division within the Cabinet and a rift between the APNU and AFC on the matter of who should lead the sugar sector reform efforts and agenda.
While AFC wants the old guard in the person of Clive Thomas, the APNU is more inclined to support the modern and visionary plans of Heath-London.
Inews understands that the AFC wants complete control of the industry and it is now in discussion with the APNU on ensuring this happens before any confirmed deal is reached to campaign together at the upcoming local Government elections.