“Where did the money go?” – GAWU asks Govt

Some members of the APNU/AFC Cabinet upon its assumption to office in 2015

The Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is demanding answers from the caretaker coalition administration regarding the current state of affairs of the country’s national accounts.

The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) had written the caretaker President David Granger on May 15 detailing the firm’s dire financial situation and had appealed for a bailout.

Only until the letter was leaked into the public domain, the caretaker government responded indicating that the treasury does not have enough money to assist the Sugar Company.

INews has reported that the coalition administration has bankrupted the country, with several accounts now in overdraft.

Commenting on the situation today, GAWU asked “where did the money go?”

See full statement below:

The Ministry of Finance in a statement on Wednesday evening (June 10, 2020) has indicated that the Government could not provide any support from the Treasury to state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. (GuySuCo). The Ministry’s statement followed a reported engagement between de-facto President David Granger and his Ministers of Finance and Agriculture. The Ministry’s statement seems to admit that the Treasury is empty and the country is bankrupt. We hope this is not the case given our prevailing situation.

On this matter, it must be noted that the GuySuCo wrote President Ganger since mid-May, 2020 informing them of the Corporation’s financial state and a need for urgent support. Both the Ministers of Finance and Agriculture had also received copies of the letter. Unfortunately, this written request and plea did not attract the President’s attention until a copy of the correspondence found its way into public eye. This unwarranted delay in addressing GuySuCo’s survival plea brings into focus, the level of importance Government places on the sugar sector. In fact, this type of action contradicts the grand statements often made by Government officials about its commitment to reorganizing and reforming the sugar sector. In fact, we saw the Finance Ministry saying that the Government “…remains committed to making Guysuco a viable partner”. It seems to be a lot of fluff to us. The action/inaction also raises the question whether the caretaker Government had any intention to address the issue or whether it was prepared to allow the industry to close its doors under the cover of election noise. It is almost unimaginable that a Government would aid and abet such a situation which has enormous social consequences.

The Government has explained that COVID-19 situation and reduced national income is making it prohibitive to assist GuySuCo. This explanation is given at a time when overdraft in the public bank account skyrocketed by $10B in the month of April alone, which is approximately $333M per day. We, like many Guyanese, must ask where did this money go. Certainly it did not reach the hands of thousands of Guyanese who need the State’s help at this time. We believe the use of the large sum may be an interesting story in itself.

The Ministry explained, notwithstanding its limitations, it is working on other mechanisms to provide support to the industry which was significantly minimized under the Coalition’s watch. We gather that the support will come from the NICIL-SPU $30B bond. In essence, the caretaker group had an engagement to release what appears to be a small sum from the monies steadfastly held by NICIL. On this score, we must remind the nation, the President committed, a year ago, that he would ensure that monies are released to the sugar industry. This promise failed and the industry lost one year of investments for its reorienting and reorganizing programmes. Dithering by the Administration has extracted a significant opportunity cost from the industry.

The decision by the Granger government, in our view, does not serve to meaningfully address the concerns raised by the GuySuCo Chairman in his correspondence. In fact, we contend, that it is no more than a tangible demonstration of the Coalition’s unsympathetic regard for the sugar industry and the thousands of Guyanese who depend on it for a livelihood. The Administration’s disdain for the sector is well established and documented. It is an ignominious period for an industry that literally cause the formation of and built Guyana. Today, the Granger regime has turned its back on the sugar belt and, from all appearances, is prepared to drive a large section of Guyanese into poverty. Is this the final act Mr Granger wishes to be remembered by?