‘Sugar sector needed transitional help, not closure’ – Jagdeo tells Diaspora in Canada

A section of the audience
Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo addressing the audience in Canada

Instead of closing sugar estates and creating an economic and social vacuum, a fact-based approach that included impact studies should have been pursued by the Government. This is according to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, on the campaign trail in Canada.

Jagdeo was at the time addressing members of the Association of Concerned Guyanese at a dinner in Toronto, Canada. He acknowledged that sugar needed transitional help but indicated that the Government’s approach was anything but transitional.

General elections are due on March 2, 2020. While he acknowledged that some from the Party’s rural agriculture base were led astray by false promises from the coalition at the last elections, Jagdeo was confident that any votes from the sugar belt that the Party lost in 2015 have returned to his party.

“We’ve made it clear, sugar needs transitional help. But if this government had only taken a fact-based approach by doing a feasibility study for the industry; even if you have a company, you will do a study before you privatise it or anything of the sort,” the Opposition Leader said.

“This is an industry, yet they have made serious decisions that would affect 50,000 lives in Guyana, without any regards for any study. No feasibility study, no social impact study, no diversification study. Those persons would lose their jobs and would be forced to fend for themselves”.

A section of the audience

Jagdeo recalled that it was President David Granger, himself, who said he would be guided by a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) and spent G$70 million in order to establish one. Despite all of that, the CoI’s findings were disregarded.

“They recommended no closure. As soon as the report came out, he made a decision to close (the estates),” Jagdeo recalled in his address to the packed house that was composed primarily of the Guyanese diaspora in Canada.

Back in 2017, the Government had announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).

Subsequently, in November of that year, GuySuCo announced plans to retrench 2500 workers by the end of that year. Amid much criticism, over 7000 were retrenched, with some having to fight for the severance they were legally entitled to.

The Government then established the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) under the National Industrial and Commercial Investment Limited (NICIL) to take over the divestment of GuySuCo’s assets that were earmarked for sale.

The SPU then recruited Price Waterhouse Coopers to conduct a valuation of the assets to be privatised and divested. It is understood, however, that with the Government in a caretaker status after losing a No-Confidence Motion last year, that process has been suspended.