It got heated in this National Assembly this morning as the Government and Opposition clashed after it was revealed that another $2 billion was given out to the Guyana Sugar Corporation from the consolidated fund for what the Government calls ‘out of crop’ support.
Of that sum, $1.6 Billion was given to GUYSUCO to pay salaries, $286 million was received by the company to purchase fuel, while an additional $48 million was given to the sugar company for lubricants and $130M to rent lorries.
An additional $94 million was granted to Guysuco for essential parts and materials and $86 million for pension among other costs.
Opposition spokesman on Agriculture, Khemraj Ramjattan who flagged the allocation questioned whether the government could not have foreseen the salary expenditure and cater for it in the National budget.
He also questioned the urgency of the funds for salaries for Guysuco since the company received over $2 billion earlier this year in the national budget.
In response, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, said the allocation is annual support for Guysuco, out of crop but Mr. Ramjattan maintained that the government needed to show that the allocation was urgent as provided for by the Constitution.
But the Agriculture Minister revealed that the funds that were earlier allocated to Guysuco had to be diverted due to the flood situation earlier this year. It was the first time that such a revelation was made.
“We would have expended a large sum to ensure that we safeguard GUYSUCO. The budget would have been exhausted and that is why this has become an emergency to put back the cash into GUYSUCO,” the Agriculture Minister explained.
Mr. Ramjattan pointed out that the $1.6B being sought for wages is from the contingency fund and questioned whether there were new hiring made at GUYSUCO to warrant the contingent.
“Mr. Speaker this is a replacement of the cash that was utilized because as I said there was a number of emergency work during that period from May on to August and because of that, all the heads (monies for different purposes) would have been exhausted that is why we find it necessary to put the money back into Guysuco,” the Agriculture Minister further pointed out.
The government used its majority to approve the additional funding for GUYSUCO.
For the last several years, GUYSUCO has been operating at a loss.
Despite the problems plaguing the industry, billions of dollars in support continue to be poured into it.
Under the last government, there was a move to scale down operations and some estates were closed. The new government has started moves to reopen those estates even as the company continues to bleed the national treasury.