LETTER: Govt should have verified information supplied by EU on sugar support

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Dear Editor,
I am astounded by the fact that this Government can peddle inaccurate information — without verifying the truthfulness of a statement — which appeared in the press to the effect that the European Union (EU) disbursed Gy$348.5 billion as financial assistance to the sugar industry in Guyana.
What is most disturbing is the fact that the Minister of State would have made an open statement in the press: that the previous Government did indeed collect such a humongous sum.
Moreover, when this Government was in the Opposition, its members were privy to all such information via the Economic Services Committee. In addition, numerous debates were held in connection with the subsidy to GuySuCo. They knew exactly what the true figures are. But it does seem that whatever political mileage can be gained for however brief a period, then it seems worthwhile to have a go at it, regardless of if the Guyanese populace is misinformed fractionally!
I have been doing some research on the internet, trying to figure out the correct amount of financial assistance given under the Accompanying Measures to Sugar Protocol countries, and found this article titled ‘International Co-operation and Development’, in which it is stated that between the period 2007and 2013 Guyana would have received 143 million Euros, which would have amounted to $33.8 billion Guyana Dollars (https://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/countries/guyana_en).
Furthermore, in that same article, it was stated that the Sugar Industry showed signs of recovery after the injection of that amount by the PPP/C government. The PPP also gave subsidies amounted to Gy$28 billion. This Government has given a subsidy of $32 billion, and has received around $10 billion from the EU in 2 years; and the industry, especially Skeldon, is falling apart and Wales is closed. This is a spark of genius coming from a ‘competent’ CEO and his team of experts from the IMC. And of course without any political interference!
It must be noted also that the Skeldon Expansion Project was in keeping with the EU’s National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) which outlined five strategies, one of which is the expansion of the sugar industry. It must also be borne in mind that this same Skeldon Factory was lauded by the Coalition Government when it achieved its target. Then suddenly, in the beginning of the first crop in 2017, we were told that it was falling apart. This seems to be a different strategy.
The strategy to sell, Moreover the Skeldon Project, would have addressed two other strategies: to improve the sugar industry’s competitiveness, and to diversify into electricity generation. It must be recalled that other value-added activities were also promoted, such as ethanol and packaging. It was a movement in the right direction.
However, this Government has made an about-turn and is mainly looking at diversification away from sugar, and privatization as well as ‘right-sizing’ the industry. Unfortunately, it has so far failed to provide support for the livelihoods of those affected by the sugar sector reform it wants to implement (another NAS stipulation). Moreover, The White Paper is indeed ‘white’, since it does not say much about anything and far less about the livelihoods of workers. Workers simply do not have the finance and ‘know how’ to be involved in any type of agricultural production. But they are ‘expendables’ in the current scheme of things!
This Government had said that ‘sugar is too big to fail,’ but by shrinking it gradually, they are hoping that no one will complain when it eventually fails.

Yours sincerely,
Haseef Yusuf

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