Where is the sugar money?

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PNCR Chairman Volda Lawrence

…PNCR calls on PPP to account for $34.4B given by EU for GuySuCo

THE People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) is still to give the nation an explanation for what actually became of the portion of the Euro166.67M ($34.4B) that was given to Guyana between 2006 and 2015, and was expected to go to programmes that mitigated the effects of the declining sugar industry.

This is according to the People’s National Congress Reform, which is contending that under the PPP government, unemployment grew from 32,931 in 2002 to 34,964 in 2012.
And with the PPPC and Leader of the Opposition Bharrat Jagdeo complaining about the lack of salary increases for sugar workers as was given to public servants, the PNCR is questioning whether that party ever had those workers’ interests at heart.

“The PPP was given [$34.4B] Billion by the European Union (EU) to protect sugar workers jobs and strengthen the Guyana Sugar Corporation Inc. Where did that money go? Inevitably those funds went missing; the money most likely ended up in the pockets of the PPP elite and never made it to the sugar workers or GuySuCo,” PNCR Chairman Volda Lawrence noted at a recent press conference.

Reading from a prepared statement, Lawrence said: “History shows clearly that at no point was protecting sugar workers’ jobs a priority for the dishonest PPP. If the PPP was concerned for the welfare of the sugar workers then the $348 Billion would have gone to those workers and to GuySuco. But instead of putting money in the sugar workers pockets.”

The government recently announced salary increases from 9 – 8.5 per cent for public servants. The increases will be retroactive to January 2019 and tax-free. Notwithstanding that from 2010 to 2015, under the PPP, public servants’ wages grew less than ten per cent, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has been repeatedly quoted as saying that public servants were better off back then. But according to the statistics, under the PPP, unemployment grew from 32,931 in 2002 to 34,964 in 2012.

‘DON’T BE FOOLED’
“The PNCR calls on all Guyanese to be vigilant, and not be fooled by the ‘snake-oil salesmen’ of the dishonest PPP. For 23 years, the PPP and Irfaan Ali failed Guyanese, driving important industries to collapse, putting people’s livelihoods at risk and costing tens of thousands to lose their jobs,” Minister Lawrence said, adding:
“It was the PPP, not the PNC, who forced the closure of Diamond, LBI and Wales Sugar Estates. It was the PPP, not the PNC, that silenced sugar workers with teargas when they protested. It was the PPP, not the PNC that squandered billions of dollars that should have gone to the sugar workers.”
She said the PPPC should explain to sugar workers what became of the billions of dollars that were supposed to be used to help build the sugar industry.

Noting that while the cash-strapped sugar industry floundered, GuySuCo’s former CEO, Rajendra Singh was living large, Minister Lawrence said:
“Raj Singh was paid millions of dollars a month to run GuySuCo, and he did not even live in Guyana. The PPP, instead of giving money to the sugar workers, wasted it by flying Raj Singh back and forth from the USA to Guyana first-class. Now the PPP leadership, Irfaan Ali and the Party General Secretary, Bharrat Jagdeo, sits in their multi-million-dollar water-front mansions, pretending to care, while sugar workers struggle to survive.”

ACCOMPANYING MEASURES
As part of the Accompanying Measures for Sugar Protocol (AMSP), the EU doled out billions of dollars, in various tranches, to the PPPC government, as adjustment to the 2006 reform of the EU’s sugar regime, which saw the implementation of a phased 36 per cent price-cut for countries that sold sugar to the EU. The money represented a fraction of an entire EURO$1.25B that was dispersed across a number of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to promote the economic diversification of sugar-dependent areas.

In Guyana, however, the money was never directly handed over to GuySuCo and was instead paid into the National Treasury. Hence, there was no trail tracking what money that was plugged into the industry over the years came from the AMSP project, or how exactly the money was utilised. Or what impact the money had in improving the industry. It was not clear how much of an impact those funds had in terms of preparing the local sugar industry for the inevitable, and there are questions about the previous administration’s decision to plug $47B into the failed Skeldon Sugar Modernisation Project.

In 2006, the PPPC government submitted a Guyana National Plan of Action (GNPA) listing three pillars of intervention under the AMSP. The first pillar focused on the promotion, development and diversification of the industry, and had a budget of $114.884B; $6.678B of which was earmarked for the growth and development of specific non-traditional agriculture; while another $5.525B was to have gone towards infrastructural and human resource development.

However a 2016 follow-up assessment has concluded that these goals were poorly met. “There was little progress towards the goals contained in the National Adaption Strategy and AMSP surrounding industry competitiveness and output,” a “Study on Current and Forecast Market Development for ACP Sugar Suppliers to the EU Market” is quoted as saying.

The study, which was submitted in July 2016, has concluded that the problem was that not all the AMSP money went to GuySuCo. “Investment [fell] far below the planned level across the entire period… due to disbursal occurring via budget support… Not all AMSP funding reached GuySuCo.”