The Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO) has been in a state of crisis for over 25 years. The Government has acted resolutely and responsibly to protect the livelihood of workers, to preserve the viability of rural communities and prevent the further financial depletion of the country’s treasury.
The Government, including previous administrations, struggled to maintain the industry’s viability; by:
– engaging international advisory, technical and managerial corporations such as Booker-Tate Ltd., Bosch Projects (PTY) and Global Cane Sugar between 1992 and 2015;
– erecting a new factory at Skeldon in the East Berbice-Corentyne Region at a cost of US$ 121 mn;
– expending G$48.02 bn in financial support to the industry since 2011 and G$32 billion over the past thirty months – a rate of about a billion dollars a month.
This Government cannot sustain the sugar industry in its current state. It has had to make difficult choices in order to ensure the industry’s viability. Its earliest measures included:
– convening a commission of inquiry into the state of the industry in October 2015;
– publishing a State Paper on the future of the industry in May 2017;
– creating a ‘Special Purpose Unit’ to manage the reform of the industry in June 2017.
I iterated – in my address to the 71st sitting of the National Assembly on 2nd November 2017 – that: “The sugar industry is being consolidated; it is not being closed. We will explore all options…to ensure a viable industry, mindful of its impact on the Nation’s rural economy and its residents.”
The Government is committed to making the industry efficient and competitive by consolidating cultivation in East Berbice at Albion, in West Berbice at Blairmont and West Demerara at Uitvlugt. The Corporation will aim at producing 147,000 tonnes annually, preserving three enlarged estates and protecting the jobs of over 11,000 workers.
The Government is committed to the welfare of sugar workers and their families. It has:
– estimated for the expenditure of over $2.0 bn to provide fifty per cent of severance pay due to all redundant workers by the end of January 2018, the remainder being paid in the second half of the year;
– embarked on an extensive review of expenditure in every sector to the extent of reducing ministerial budgets in order to find funds to enable sugar workers to receive their severance pay; and,
– earmarked $100 mn to provide small loans for entrepreneurial activities which could open opportunities for employment after leaving the sugar industry.
The Guyana Sugar Corporation is not being dismantled. It is working actively to ameliorate the impact of retrenchment on workers livelihood. It has:
– established an Alternative Livelihood Programme (ALP), aimed at providing support by enabling displaced employees to access available opportunities to function in other fields;
– embarked on the training of employees to work in new operational fields across the industry in places such as the field workshop and providing services;
– engaged 500 employees from the West and East Demerara Estates with over 100 of them signaling their willingness to be retrained – in fields such as carpentry, masonry, plumbing, mechanical and electrical works and in small business enterprises.
The Government will continue to engage stakeholders, the Guyana Sugar Corporation, Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union and the National Association of Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Employees and the workers.
The Government is cognizant of the invaluable contribution of the sugar industry to the development of Guyana. The Government will continue to work towards returning the reformed sugar industry to profitability and improving the personal income of sugar workers while seeking to provide a good life for current and future generations.