[www.inewsguyana.com] – Laying to rest the worry that the $6B subvention to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) could be disapproved by the opposition, both sides approved the spending on Wednesday night (April 9) in the National Assembly.
The combined parliamentary opposition however, wasted no time to scrutinize Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, demanding that he provide details in relation to how the money will be utilized.
Both the Alliance for Change (AFC) and A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) argued that there was an urgent need for reshuffling and reassessment of GuySuCo’s management lest the national purse would have to give monies to the industry annually.
There was also a call for a clear plan to be provided to the House that would show the way forward for a sustained, self sufficient industry.
Dr. Ramsammy explained that the $6B subvention is to address the challenges facing the industry, more specifically approximately $1B will go towards mechanization, another $1B to improving cane production, some $2B towards factory upgrades and the rest of the money will address the purchasing of equipment and improving field infrastructure.
Dr. Ramsammy in responding to questions from the opposition benches said the administration remains committed to strengthening the management of GuySuCo, adding that a number of recommendations have been made for persons to become members of the new board.
He added that there were radical changes being proposed for the new board which will be appointed by July 1. The Agriculture Minister said President Donald Ramotar is currently engaged in talks with persons recommended to be part of the board and assured that the administration was looking for persons who will bring experience in industry business, marketing, agronomy and mechanization.
Responding to questions by AFC’s Moses Nagamootoo, the Minister admitted that some of the over $11B which was given to the industry over the last two years was used to increase remuneration among other operational cost.
The Minister could not provide immediately answers in relation to GuySuCo’s debt and the contribution the Skeldon Factory in that regard. He did point out however that Skeldon was significantly responsible for the shortfall in 2013.
He said he was confident that the 2014 sugar target of 216,000 tonnes will be met, adding that the target for the first crop is 70,000 tonnes and the industry is likely to make 60,000 tonnes at the close of this week.
The first crop for 2013 began late as a result of bad weather. This caused the industry to produce only 48,018 tonnes of sugar for that crop and a total of 186,749 tonnes of sugar for the year.
GuySuCo was allocated $1B last year in the National Budget while an additional $4B was approved at the end of the year to meet additional expenses.
These included the payment of salary increases which the Company could not afford, including the Annual Production Incentive (API), holiday payments, and increases negotiated by the unions.
Meanwhile, funding for the Guyana Livestock Development Authority, Guyana Marketing Corporation, Guyana Rice Development Board, Guyana School of Agriculture, Hope Coconut Estates, National Drainage and Irrigation Authority among other entities which fall under the Agriculture Ministry was approved by the House.
Fisheries and the Hydro-meteorological Services funding for the fiscal year 2014 were also approved.