Workers of the Rose Hall Estate in East Canje Berbice (Region Six, East Berbice-Corentyne) have been given temporary reprieve as Government is postponing closure of the estate to sometime next year.
The estate was scheduled to be closed on December 31, 2017, but Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, told reporters at this week’s post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday that this closure will be pushed back to 2018.
He explained that the Special Purposes Unit (SPU), which was established under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to manage the privatisation/divestment process of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) is yet to carry out works at the Rose Hall Estate to determine the way forward with the factory.
As such, the decision was taken to push back the closure until those works are completed.
“…(with) the Special Purposes Unit, there is work to be done, and therefore you cannot just bring something to an end and you don’t have something to take it up. So that might very well see a roll over into 2018,” the State Minister detailed.
Back in May, Government announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo.
Ever since that announcement, workers attached to the various estates, backed by their unions — GAWU (Guyana Agriculture and General Workers Union) and NAACIE (National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees) — have taken to the streets in several protest demonstrations to signal to Government the negative impact the closure will have on workers and the economy as a whole.
In fact, only last week, Rose Hall Estate workers said it was not too late for Government to reconsider closing the entity at the end of the crop. One of the workers’ representatives, Glen McCloud, had said the workers were hopeful there would have been a re-look at the intention, having recognised the obvious hardship that would result from the estate’s closure.
“For us of Rose Hall, closure can be seen as a death knell for so many hardworking people and their families. For us of Rose Hall, closure means that our plans for life, our dreams for a better tomorrow, and our aspirations for our children and grandchildren have all but been dashed. For us of Rose Hall, closure will bring about uncertain times and many difficult, misery-filled days ahead”, he had expressed.
Last month, GuySuCo announced plans to retrench 2,500 workers by the end of this year. GAWU says the downsizing and subsequent closure of sugar estates would lead to the loss of more than 15,000 jobs, and the potential threat of poverty for between 50,000 and 100,000 people.
Touching on provisions made by Government for those workers who would be displaced, McCloud believes that there are no such plans.
With regard to the Skeldon and Enmore Estates, the State Minister explained that the SPU will have to conduct evaluations, surveys and inventory assessments before any steps are taken to actually sell.
It was recently reported that the Private Sector Commission (PSC) has submitted a proposal for the acquisition of the East Coast Demerara estate.
A statement from Head of the Special Purpose Unit, Colvin Heath-London, last month detailed that an international accounting firm would be recruited to evaluate GuySuCo’s assets for privatisation and divestment.
Selected tenders were invited from Price Water House Coopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and KPMG to provide the services to the SPU, as international financial services provider. The selected firm would be conducting the valuation of all assets under the control of GuySuCo, in addition to other advisory and financial services.
After the winning firm has been identified — which should be anytime — work would commence in regard to the valuation of the assets. The preparation of a prospectus is expected to be completed by the end of January 2018.