$30B injection could have kept sugar industry going without any job losses- PPP

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File Photo: Former sugar workers and their families in 2017 marching the streets of Enmore and Foulis on the East Coast of Demerara after the closure of the Enmore sugar estate was announced

The People’s Progressive Party is of the firm view that the incumbent Administration has no defined plan for the sugar industry and posits that this is evidenced with the recent announcement by head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited’s (NICIL) Special Purpose Unit (SPU), Colvin Heath-London that Government secured a $30 billion syndicated bond to keep the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) afloat for the next four years.

According to the PPP in a released statement “thirty billion dollars in subsidy would have kept the industry going for four years without a single loss of jobs.”

Moreover, the party cited as ironic the postulations by the coalition Government that  “the sugar industry is not viable” but yet it is now willing to invest $30 billion for the remaining estates, an amount which it said is certainly larger than any single liability accumulated during the PPP Government.

The PPP is calling on the government to conduct a proper feasibility study and a transparent plan to restore viability to the industry, as the party feels that “the $30 billion, given the track record of incompetence and corruption by this Government, will be wasted and stolen and future generations will be saddled with the repayment of this humongous debt.”

See their full statement below:

Only a few months ago the nation was told that “the sugar industry is not viable”, that “it is draining the treasury”, that “it is a waste of tax payers’ dollars”, that “it is sucking the life blood of this nation” and that pouring money into GUYSUCO is pouring money into a “black hole”.

As a result and without any feasibility study or impact based assessment, several estates were closed and thousands of workers were put out of jobs and on the breadline with their families.

Now again without any assessment, projection or feasibility study (at least none has been made public), we are told that the Special Purposes Unit has secured a $30 billion syndicated bond “to aid in the revitalization of the country’s sugar industry”. This approach seems to be predicated on caprice at worst and guesswork at best.

We maintain most resolutely that any attempt to fix GUYSUCO must cater for the long-term sustainability and viability of the industry. We are confident that a proper feasibility study, coupled with prudent management, fiscal responsibility and transparency can achieve these objectives.

We have already expressed our deep concerns about financial injections into the industry, which are intended to liquidate liabilities in order to sell off the industry or parts of it, liability- free, to friends and allies of the Government with guaranteed kickbacks to Ministers.

Thirty billion dollars in subsidy would have kept the industry going for four years without a single loss of jobs. We are aware from the Government’s own admissions that billions have been pumped into the industry as subsidies, under this Government, with nothing to show for it and we have called for an investigation into how and on what these monies were spent.

Some reports in the press state that the $30 billion came from “international markets” while others indicate that it came from several local banks, including, Republic Bank. What is certain is that it is not a loan on concessionary terms. No study has been done to enquire into GUYSUCO’s ability to repay such a loan.

If we are to go on what the Government has said of GUYSUCO, then clearly GUYSUCO cannot repay this loan. This raises the other fundamental issue of what is the collateral for this loan. Did the Government guarantee the loan, or the assets of GUYSUCO have been used as collateral? If the latter is the position and there is an inability to repay, then the banks will end up owning the massive asset base that GUYSUCO has.

It is opportune that we point out that the Government regularly blames the PPP for leaving GUYSUCO in debt. They use the gloated figure of $84 billion dollars as this debt without disclosing that most of this debt consists of pension liabilities, taxes to GRA and monies owed to NIS. Thirty billion dollars is certainly larger than any single liability accumulated during the PPP Government.

Most importantly, other than the broad generic terms used, there is no indication of a clearly defined plan on how this money will be spent and what rewards it will yield, specifically, or for the overall long-term welfare of the industry.

We remain worried that the Government is operating blindly and up to now has not unfolded a plan for the future of GUYSUCO. We feel that the $30 billion, given the track record of incompetence and corruption by this Government, will be wasted and stolen and future generations will be saddled with the repayment of this humongous debt.

We wish to reiterate our confidence in the sugar industry and we are of the firm view that it has a viable long-term future. We are prepared to partner with the Government to make this a reality. However, we insist on a scientific and transparent approach.

We demand a feasibility study and a transparent plan to restore viability to this industry. We say that the whimsical and fanciful approach of the Government, which is mired in secrecy, will only lead to corruption and greater disaster for the industry.

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