–says improving efficiency across the industry high on the agenda
By Navendra Seoraj
GUYANA’S ailing sugar industry has received “new blood” with the appointment of prominent financial strategist, Sasenarine Singh as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) (ag) of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo). CEO of Demerara Bank, Pravainchandra Dave, has been appointed as chairman of the company’s board of directors.
The new leaders will be looking to “hit the ground running,” as government has already allocated $5 billion in Budget 2020 for the resuscitation of the sugar industry.
“We are grateful to the Government of Guyana for supporting us with the contribution of $5 billion in the 2020 budget and we will utilise most of that cash to reopen three of the sugar estates, vested estates as they are called, Skeldon, Rose Hall and the East Demerara Sugar Estate based at Enmore,” said Singh told Guyana Chronicle on Tuesday evening.
In 2017, the APNU+AFC Coalition Government had announced the closure of several sugar estates across the country, leaving thousands of persons without a job or source of income.
Without alternative measures in place, many of the sugar workers struggled to provide for their families.
President Irfaan Ali has pledged the PPP/C Government’s commitment to ensuring the livelihoods of the sugar workers are restored.
“The upliftment of those families and the rebuilding of the sugar industry are as strong as it was when we promised. I assure you that we will work assiduously, at not only securing these lives and livelihood for them; we will work hard at creating new opportunities on advancing new opportunities to fulfill the promises we would have made in our manifesto,” the Head of State remarked.
The PPP/C Government, during its time in opposition, had committed to reopening the closed sugar estates, a promise which Singh plans to fulfill as the new CEO (ag).
“I have to go and look at the strategic plan but the immediate thing is fulfilling the promise of the government of brining online the three vested sugar factories… we want to convert GuySuCo from a three-factory to a six-factory company, this is the immediate plan,” said the new CEO (ag).
Bringing GuySuCo back from the “depths of despair” while fulfilling those promises will not be an easy task, but Singh plans to utilise his skills to improve efficiency across the industry.
His “grassroots approach” includes reintroducing good husbandry practices; getting back to the basics of good agronomy; bringing the best engineering to the factories; and making sure that support services are lean so the operations of GuySuCo will be most efficient.
He believes that GuySuCo already has a “big pool” of talented people who have a greater love for the sugar industry, but they need leadership, something which he plans to offer.
“I plan to bring to GuySuCo an attitude of mine where we are solution engineers to the challenges… GuySuCo has many challenges and they are all surmountable, but we have to programme and manage them to make sure we become more efficient.
“I will be focusing particularly on the tonnes cane-tonnes sugar ratio, to make sure we understand the dynamics behind it, in bringing it down so that more revenue/cash could be left on the table for the company,” said the new CEO (ag).
According to a statement from the Ministry of Agriculture, Singh holds a master’s degree in finance from Lancaster University, an executive post graduate diploma from London Business School, and a bachelor’s degree in accountancy from the University of Guyana. He is also a qualified Chartered Accountant (ACCA).
Singh is a project finance specialist with over 16 years’ experience at turnaround management internationally and possesses tremendous leadership experience at building capacity in teams.
He will be supported by Dave, who is a highly qualified and experienced banking professional with over 30 years as a senior banking executive in Guyana and abroad. Support will also come from newly-appointed vice-chairman of GuySuCo, Anthony Vieira.
Other members of GuySuCo board include Ramesh Persaud, Tarachand Balgobin, Ray Hanoman, Shamira Evans, Mohamed Rafeek and Desmond Sears. A representative of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) is to be named to be on the board.
The new leadership of the sugar corporation has a tall order ahead but the government believes that the plans for the industry are attainable.
In presenting Budget 2020 to the National Assembly, Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, said a viable and sustainable sugar industry is the government’s long-term goal and it will work to solve the problems of the industry holistically.