The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) never received $400 Million that was approved by Parliament in the 2016 Budget.
The matter was addressed by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Monday, when former Agriculture Ministry Permanent Secretary George Jervis was called before the Committee. According to Jervis, the monies were approved for GuySuCo, but he said that the monies, which were intended for purchasing machinery and equipment that would be used for harvesting and land preparations at the Albion, Rose Hall and Uitvlught estates, were never released by the APNU+AFC Government.
It was not the first time that monies earmarked for a specific purpose for GuySuCo were instead used for other purposes by the then APNU+AFC administration. In 2018, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), through Republic Bank, arranged a $30 billion syndicated bond at a rate of 4.75 per cent interest and a five-year repayment period to recapitalize GuySuCo.
However, a significant part of the bond was never used for the purposes it was secured. The previous APNU/AFC Government itself had admitted that between July 2018 to February 2020, $9.7 billion was disbursed from the bond to GuySuCo to fund its operational expenditure – much of which was outside the terms of the bond.
Back in 2016, the former APNU+AFC closed the Wales Estate, and the following year, shut down the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon Estates, putting over 7000 sugar workers on the breadline.
Over 7000 those workers have not been able to secure permanent jobs and remain on the breadline years later. The downsizing of the sugar industry resulted in only the Uitvlugt, Blairmont and Albion Estates in operation.
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), during the 2020 election campaign trail, had promised to reopen those estates and rehire those sacked workers. Since the PPP/C Administration assumed office in August 2020, they have been putting systems in place to reopen the Enmore, Rose Hall and Skeldon Estates.
Some $5 billion was allocated in the 2020 emergency budget, which would be injected into the sugar industry for the phased reopening of the closed estates. GuySuCo was allocated a further $2 billion in Budget 2021 by the PPP/C Government for capital works to be undertaken at the various estates to help in the turnaround of the sugar industry.
Due to the deteriorating state of the Wales factory, that estate will be converted into the Wales Development Authority – an industrial facility that will see the development of not only agriculture but agro-industries, processing facilities, manufacturing and other sectors to drive economic activities.
Additionally, Government, through the GuySuCo has already moved to rehire over 700 sugar workers.
The reopening of the Rose Hall Estate in East Berbice-Corentyne, for which a recruitment drive was started last week, is scheduled for October 2022 as GuySuCo is currently undertaking inspections and remedial work to get the estate ready.
In an interview with the media, Rose Hall Estate Manager Balraj Dhanraj spoke of the efforts to reopen the estate. According to him, the estate is on course for its rescheduled reopening in October of 2022, set within the second crop.