Georgetown, Guyana – (November 23, 2017) Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon, last evening, announced that the Government of Guyana has received more than 70 unsolicited Expressions of Interest from investors, who are interested in turning around the ailing sugar industry even as Government is working to ensure that the sector remains viable and the livelihood of sugar workers are protected.
Minister Harmon, who was at the time delivering the feature address at the opening of the New Amsterdam Town Week commemorating the 126th anniversary of the Town, said that the Government, since assuming office, has been faced with the task of making tough decisions with regard to the future of the ailing sugar industry. Minister Harmon said that every decision that the Government has made with regard to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco) has been done, taking into consideration the interests of the sugar workers and the nation. He noted that the way the sugar industry was previously managed resulted in severe haemorrhaging of resources and as such, decisions had to be taken.
“Your government made a decision after very, very careful analysis that the way in which the sugar industry was being managed, that it was not possible for the industry to remain poorly managed and to be haemorrhaging the way it was haemorrhaging if it continued along that path. In 2017 we made a decision with respect to the current management of Guysuco that its capacity was only able to manage three of those estates and to produce a hundred and fifty tonnes of sugar every year. What that meant was that the other estates were now opened for diversification or for divestment,” he said.
The Minister of State said that Expressions of Interest have been received from numerous investors, from countries as far as Australia, who are interested in working with the Government to save the industry. “I will say this to you that in spite of all of the noise and confusion being made since this was made known, since the Government established a Special Purposes Unit for that purpose I can say to you, after the last month or so we have had over seventy unsolicited bids or expressions of interest in the sugar industry of Guyana. We have had at least seventy and as I said on one occasion, the government of this country, your government will always have your interest, the worker’s interest paramount and so what has been happening is that all of those expressions of interest are interested in keeping the estates in sugar and so I want to say to you this afternoon the decision of your government has been vindicated so far,” Minister Harmon said.
Minister Harmon said that the Special Projects Unit, which is tasked with the realignment of Guysuco has received promising responses from the Guyana Agricultural Workers’ Union (GAWU) and National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees (NAACIE), expressing their desire to work with the Government to ensure that the industry remains viable.
On this note, the Minister of State said that sugar workers can look to a bright future as the Government is prepared to do whatever it can to ensure that their livelihood and the industry are protected.
“So New Amsterdam brighter days are ahead, do not have any fear with what some of the people are saying that doom-days are here. Brighter days are ahead for us here and I am happy to say that last week the Special Purposes Unit received two letters, one from GAWU and one from NACCIE, the Trade Unions that represent the sugar workers and they said in that letter that they were happy with the direction in which things were going, that they look forward to working with the special purposes unit to ensure that we can make this thing work. We will continue to work with GAWU and NACCIE and we will continue to work with all of the people, all of the stake holders in the industry, to ensure that the welfare of the workers is paramount and I am confident that with the expressions of interest that we have received that we are going to turn this thing around,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister Harmon urged the Town Council, Regional administration and citizens to work in a consensual, cooperative and collaborative way so that together they can move the town forward. “It’s no point fighting them down, no point making life unhappy and unpleasant for you and our residents. Find ways of working together and you will see that your town and your residents will benefit. Involve the wide cross section of the community in your endeavours because no sector, no individual, no political party or institution has all the answers to the myriad challenges confronting New Amsterdam. It will be by combining your collective experiences, energy, talent and creativity that you will find the solutions to better the lives of all the residents of your town,” Minister Harmon said.
The celebration of Town Week, the Minister said, is an opportunity to celebrate the Town’s heritage and history at the community level as well as to reminisce on those good things, which have taken place in the town. “You therefore have every reason to celebrate and be proud of your history, to be proud of your heritage, to recognize and be appreciative of the struggles of your fore-parents and to use that as a platform to plan for the future,” he said.
As the 2018 Local Government Elections approach, the Minister of State reminded the Town that the Government is committed to establishing and sustaining true local democracy in all municipalities and Neighbourhood Democratic Councils (NDCs) by giving them the autonomy to make the decisions for their respective communities and to give them the required resources to implement those.