A White Paper outlining the direction the government will be moving in relation to the future of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will be laid in the National Assembly soon, Minister of State Joseph Harmon has said.
The Minister made this announcement today during a post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministry of the Presidency.
Minister Harmon explained that at a Ministerial Conference held on February 28, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder informed the executive that consultations on the sugar industry had been completed.
In deciding the future of the sugar industry, government embarked on consultations with the private sector, the political opposition, trade unions and other stakeholders last year.
Having been completed, Minister Harmon said that the options advanced by Government, and the proposals submitted by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU) will form the basis of the white paper which is expected to be laid in the National Assembly soon.
“The paper has been prepared by the Minister of Agriculture and we expect that it will be laid in the House within a very short time” he said.
The Minister further explained that the paper facilitates submissions by all stakeholders including recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) which assessed the industry.
“…it [the white paper] looks at the issues government is faced with at this time in relation to the industry; it looks at Skeldon Estate and diversification and the industry and the welfare of workers and their families” Minister Harmon added.
Asked specifically if there was expressed intention on the paper to have any estate closed, the Minister responded in the affirmative. He said that the paper contains proposals for diversification and under that recommendation, there is a proposal for closure of estates.
Unable to say how many estates are expected to be closed if government moves in the direction the paper outlines, the Minister was keen to note that deliberations at the Conference focused on the implications for foreign exchange earnings if estates are closed.
With a debt of $77.3B and consistently operating at a loss, officials of GuySuCo have advised that the industry is one not worth investing in unless there are plans for the reorganisation, restructuring and diversification of the industry.
Figures based on 2015 audited accounts show that the industry recorded a profit once in the past six years, which was recorded in 2013 due to the tax adjustment.
In 2016, the corporation received a government subsidy of $11B and $12B the previous year.
The CoI report has also indicated that for the survival of the industry it will require an injection of over $18B in 2017 and an additional $21B in 2018