The Government of Guyana on Wednesday announced that $2 Billion has been set aside to commence payment of severance packages to sugar workers, who were recently laid off.
Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo read a statement prepared by President David Granger in the National Assembly today.
According to the statement, the $2 Billion accounts for 50% of severance to be paid to the workers and those payments will commence by the end of January.
According to the Presidential statement, the other 50% of payment is likely by the middle of 2018.
“We have embarked on an extensive review of expenditure in every sector to the extent of reducing ministerial budgets in order to find funds to enable sugar workers to receive their severance pay.”
In the meantime, $100 million has been made available to provide small loans for entrepreneurial activities.
The statement came hours after retrenched workers held a protest exercise, calling on the government to provide alternative employment and ensure that their severance was paid in a timely manner.
“GuySuCo not being dismantled. It is working actively to reduce the impact of retrenchment,” Nagamootoo said.
Amid heckling from the Opposition benches, the Prime Minister pressed ahead to explain that already an alternative livelihood programme has been established to allow displaced workers to access employment opportunities.
He reminded that GuySuCo had been in a state of crisis for over 25 years but assured that the coalition government intends to act resolutely and responsibly to protect the livelihood of workers, while at the same time preventing further financial depletion of the country’s treasury.
“This government cannot sustain the sugar industry in its current state and had to make tough decisions,” he said.
Those decisions included a Commission of Inquiry into the state of GuySuCo which was followed by a State Paper on the way forward and later the creation of a Special Purpose Unit to manage reform of the industry.
“The sugar industry is being consolidated and not being closed.”
The PM told the National Assembly that the government will continue to explore options to ensure a viable industry and remains committed to making it efficient and competitive.
As such, the government anticipates the production of 147,000 tons of cane annually using three large estates across the country.