President Dr Irfaan Ali has recommitted to fulfilling one of his party’s manifesto promises, that is, ensuring the survival of the heavily indebted and cash-strap sugar industry by implementing a comprehensive strategy, according to a statement from the Office of the President.
“The approach to the sugar industry is one in which we have to bring back three of the estates into operation; this would require capital investment, field investment and infrastructure investment. Even if the ultimate goal is to have a right business mix whether it is a public-private partnership or private investment in these estates, the asset and the industry itself must be of concern and be optimised to realise the full value and potential,” President Ali said.
The Head of State noted that the survival of the sugar industry depends heavily on Government intervention at this time. He also reminded that the former Administration failed to conduct a socio-economic study on the viability of the industry before closing the estates.
“When we are talking about the sugar industry, we are not talking about the financial viability alone. We have to look at the economic and social impact of the industry and the communities. We have seen the tremendous impact on the communities in which these estates were closed,” the President said.
In this regard, the Head of State said his Administration has commenced a review of how the $30 billion syndicated bond, which was acquired by the Coalition Government to keep the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) afloat, was utilised.
“We must recall that a bond of $30 billion was raised specifically for the sugar sector. We are now in the process of assessing how these resources were spent but surely, from what we have seen so far, there was inefficient use of the resources in relation to the sugar industry itself,” he said.
President Ali also said the assets of the Wales Estate were completely dismantled and taken away. Given this reality, his Administration is discussing the creation of a Development Authority which would become a business incubation and support model.
“This will include the workers who lost their jobs in creating a modular investment programme to support new industries, agro-industries, new areas of agriculture development and sustainable livelihoods,” President Ali assured.
This he said would be subject to a special investment incentive and regime that will stimulate investors’ interest and create a pull factor for capital. The Head of State reminded that his Government remains committed to the re-opening of the estates and assured that it will take the necessary steps, make the necessary interventions and earmark resources aimed at reviving the industry and putting the people back to work.
“Surely this would require support from the treasury, but when one examines the wider ranging impact of this support on community life, agriculture, drainage and irrigation, economic and social impact, it is clear that the budgetary support from the treasury would have a deeper impact on overall health of your economy and the communities,” President Ali noted.
The President used the opportunity, when he visited the communities across several villages in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne area) on Tuesday, to reassure that the residents who rely on the production of sugar for jobs will soon find themselves back at work. He also assured the residents of Wales that despite the state of the Estate, they will also be afforded employment opportunities and will not be left out of future revitalisation plans.
Under the APNU/AFC Coalition, the sugar industry was downsized to just three estates – Albion, Blairmont and Uitvlugt.