GuySuCo’s future to be decided by Parliament
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Minister of State Joseph Harmon
Minister of State Joseph Harmon

…White Paper for House on May 8

THE future of the sugar industry will be decided when a White Paper is laid in the National Assembly on May 8, 2017, according to Minister of State, Joseph Harmon on Thursday at a post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministry of the Presidency.

A ‘White Paper’ is a government report giving information or proposals on an issue. The draft White Paper on the sugar industry’s future was submitted by Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder to Cabinet for its consideration at its Tuesday, April 18 meeting.

Cabinet discussed the submissions in the draft White Paper and granted its approval for the document to be laid in the next sitting of the National Assembly. “This (the laying of the White Paper) here is another attempt at basically engaging all stakeholders in an important decision that has to be made on the sugar industry,” he said. He explained that the laying of the document in the National Assembly would continue the government’s trend of ensuring openness, transparency and accountability in the determination of the way forward for the industry.

Harmon noted that discussions on the White Paper will surround the feasibility of amalgamating some of the sugar estates and factories where appropriate, the requirement for divestment of some facilities, and the utilisation of some of the facilities of the estates, particularly the land, for sugar workers and cane farmers to undertake agro-based activities.
Minister Harmon reiterated the administration’s position is that, “the sugar industry is not being closed down.” He explained that based on the financial and economic realities, the government has to make some adjustments to the industry. “These adjustments are what are going to come before the National Assembly in the form of the White Paper,” Minister Harmon explained.
The Commission of Inquiry’s (COI) report into the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) was presented in the National Assembly and is now a matter of public record. The consultations (on the future of the industry,) between the government and the industry’s stakeholders are also a matter of public record, the minister pointed out.

At that consultation, the government did provide for the stakeholders and other entities, which may have proposals on GuySuCo to put them forward. “As you have known, the Leader of the Opposition (Bharrat Jagdeo) has been saying they have a plan for GuySuCo, so we say put your plan on the table, and let us discuss it, but we have heard nothing from them, other than talk up to now,” Minister Harmon said. He explained that the government did in fact receive some proposals from GAWU, which were taken into consideration in the preparation of the White Paper.

Minister Harmon pointed out that government expects that in the National Assembly the debate on the White Paper would take place, but that it would get the clearance and go ahead to ensure that it put systems in place to reverse the fortunes of the industry. It has become a necessity for the government to make urgent decisions on the sugar industry, given the financial and technical evidence presented. Minister of Finance, Winston Jordan in his presentation of the 2017 budget had indicated the status quo of the sugar industry can neither be sustained nor maintained. According to the Finance Minister as currently structured, the industry would require government’s support to the tune of $18.6 billion and $21.4 billion for the years 2017 and 2018, respectively.

 

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