Dr Harold Davis Jr has been appointed Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon informed the media during a post-Cabinet press briefing on Monday that the executive’s appointment took effect from August 1, effectively replacing Paul Bhim as CEO.
Moreover, Harmon asserted that the long awaited Board of will be installed by the end of next week.
The move by Government to have a new Board in place is sure to be a welcomed one as the Administration has faced considerable flack from various stakeholders for its indecisiveness as it regards the setting up of the Board and GuySuCo in general.
Just recently the Union body representing sugar workers, the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) called out Government over the “shifting goalpost” with regards to the establishment of a new Board.
Late last April, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder revealed that Cabinet was looking at some new names for the new Board as the life of the old Board expired on February 14 2018.
A full-page ad had detailed that the new Board was approved by Cabinet on February 26, 2018.
The new Board, which was named with Special Purpose Unit (SPU) Head Colvin Heath-London as the head was gazetted at the Deeds and Commercial Registry.
However, Harmon had said the same day that there were some issues with regard to the timing of the ad and Cabinet was reviewing the matter.
Despite these statements, Government had made it clear that the Board of Directors of GuySuCo, headed by Professor Clive Thomas, is the legitimate one.
In fact, reports had surfaced about disagreements allegedly between Ministers from the two coalition parties regarding the chairmanship and members of the GuySuCo Board.
Among other things, GAWU had said that it was “at a loss for the protracted delay in the appointment of the Board especially at a time when the Corporation requires decisive and competent leadership. At this time, when the Corporation has secured a $30B bond financing package aimed at turning the industry around the absence of a capable Board is especially disturbing,” the Union said, while noting that based on their information, “no plan has been presented that will guide the expenditure of this significant sum which has to be repaid with interest.”
In terms of the industry’s divestment, the State Minister reminded of the need for caution and transparency.
“The fact that the estates were never independent entities by themselves, it will require, apart from a valuation of these assets, it will require a separation of them from the whole. What you’re talking about now is deciding what is Skeldon? What is Enmore? Each of the estates has to have a demarcation of what are the assets there,” he said.
Moreover, Harmon outlined that valuation company Price Cooper Waterhouse has already completed a “tremendous amount of work and by the end of September they will conclude with the valuation of those assets.” The divestment will entail a significant amount of land sales from the state to the private sector, he added.
There will be consultations with persons likely to affected, he noted. The case of persons, for example, from Corriverton living on lands provided via the GuySuCo Welfare Fund but not in possession of titles, was cited. These were examples, Minister Harmon said, which pointed to the need for thoroughness when dealing with such land issues so as to avoid persons being dispossessed.
Some 5700 workers from Skeldon, East Demerara (Enmore) and Rose Hall Estates were dismissed after GuySuCo had terminated their employment in 2017. Before then, over 1000 Wales Estate workers were similarly dismissed when the entity officially ceased operation in December 2016. These moves were in keeping with what Government has said were “cost-cutting measures”.
However, the David Granger Administration has been strongly criticised for not having a holistic approach to the age-old industry, as many stakeholders, civil society groups including the private sector, and opposition politicians called for social impact studies to be conducted before closures.
In December 2017, the SPU, which falls under the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), officially took over operations at Skeldon; East Demerara (Enmore), Rose Hall and Wales. It was announced that the SPU was overseeing divestment plans, by way of either selling off or restarting factories with minimal staff to attract investors – both domestic and foreign.
NICIL’s Special Purpose Unit (SPU) Head, Heath-London, has since announced securing $30 billion, in the form of a syndicated bond, to support GuySuCo and its remaining estates.
Since his announcement of the bond, concerns have been raised about Government’s vision for the industry and the genuineness of its actions thus far, since that very $30 billion could have gone into restructuring the industry while keeping all of the estates open and GuySuCo’s workforce employed and engaged.
Meanwhile, the Private Placement Memorandum for GuySuCo’s $30 billion bond has received much criticism from Opposition Leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo.