Finance Minister Winston Jordan has refuted claims that a buyer has been identified for the Skeldon Sugar Factory by stating that that information is simply not true.
“There is no confirmed buyer as such,” he said. “This (sale) has to be done in a very transparent process, because this Government prides itself on accountability and transparency.”
Jordan told a media conference on Monday that he has heard about a lot of unsolicited interest in the sugar factory, but he reiterated that there are no confirmed buyers as yet.
“Those people would be formally invited to submit bids after we would have put (in the public domain) our adverts for the (sale of the) Skeldon Factory. We would have to assess the things and put out a request for proposals,” the Finance Minister explained.
He said the same approach would be used for the entertainment complex of the Marriott Hotel in Kingston, Georgetown.
The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) recently claimed that a purchaser may have already been identified for the Skeldon Sugar Factory. GAWU President Komal Chand told this publication earlier this month that he has information that a buyer has already been identified, despite there being a procedure to be followed in respect to sale of this national asset.
Chand had reminded that a Special Purpose Unit was created within the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) to handle the sale of the Skeldon factory.
During consideration of the first Financial Paper for 2017 — in early July — Government had requested the supplementary sum of $130 million to subsidise creation of this Special Purpose Unit.
The Financial Paper had detailed that the amount requested included provisions for employment costs, utilities, professional and legal fees, advertisements, operating supplies, furniture and equipment.
The GAWU head had said that although this (finding a buyer) was expected, the mere request for a financial sum to create this special unit had caused him to hope that a fairer system would have been employed in disposing of the Skeldon Estate — one that would see the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) getting the best deal possible.
While admitting that the Skeldon Sugar Factory had not performed as anticipated in its initial stages of operation, the Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) had expressed its belief that it is an unwise decision to put the factory up for sale, as it has shown some signs of improving performance.
The Opposition has said that performance at the factory had significantly improved in 2015, and the factory had met all its targets. The decline in recent performance at the factory has been blamed on the lack of investment on the part of the coalition APNU/AFC Government.
It was revealed in January that a close relative of Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, was reportedly working to bring in investors for the cash-strapped sugar industry.
Tony Joseph, Managing Director of Sunrise Holdings and son-in-law of Nagamootoo, led a team of Indian investors to dialogue with Government on potential investments in GuySuCo.
The Skeldon Sugar Factory alone, located on the Estate, is worth US$200 million, and the total value of the Estate would amount to billions of Guyana dollars. (Samuel Sukhnandan)