The Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was on Wednesday laid in National Assembly with Agricultural Minister Noel Holder declaring the government’s commitment to bringing the industry back to profitability.
The report has recommended that the government examines the possibility of privatizing the state owned sugar company which has been operating at a financial lost for several years. According to the report, government should begin looking for an investor and get out of the sugar business within the next three years.
Billions of taxpayers money was pumped into Guysuco to ensure its survival under the previous government and the new government has already indicated that it will have to pump more money into the industry to ensure it stays afloat.
Though the report and the recommendations will have to be considered by the Assembly, the government has already indicated its intention to turning the once collapsing industry around.
In a statement to the House, the Agriculture Minister said the industry which provides employment for some 17,000 persons had reached a point where it was difficult to keep it open for business.
He reminisced on the options available which were either to offer annual government bailouts with tax payers’ dollars or increase borrowing and indebtedness.
Holder said too that despite the other challenges plaguing the industry, the government intends to facilitate widespread national consultations with all stakeholders on charting GuySuCo’s future.
He also told the House that other difficulties that sugar was experiencing included the decline in sugar prices; particularly from the European Union, declining skills and experience base, labour shortages, dependence on government for cash infusions.
All these, the Minister believes, constituted an “untenable” situation.
Updating the Assembly on the government’s efforts since taking office in May, Minister Holder explained that he Interim Management Committee (IMC) will continue to function with priority on cost control and cash management and firmly dealing with unions.
He said when he took over management as Minister in May, “morals among workers was low, staff felt threatened and insure, a climate of fear existed, there was an uncertainty about right from wrong and workers were told to do what you’re told or find another job…”
According to the Agriculture Minister, the industry was suffering from poor marketing decisions but said there was a great feeling of relief with the appointment of the Interim Management Committee.
For the first time in 11 years, Guysuco surpassed its production target and the new management of the company indicated that the result came because of the government allowing the management to manage the company without interference. (Kurt Campbell)