Georgetown, Guyana – (October 12, 2018) President David Granger, this afternoon, reassured sugar workers that his Government will settle all outstanding severance payments after Parliament reconvenes, next Thursday.
The Head of State was at the time addressing a few disgruntled workers and residents who picketed the Rose Hall Primary School, this afternoon, just before he attended a community meeting there.
While interacting with the few protestors, President Granger disclosed that his administration will soon engage the Unions which represent the sugar workers, to devise a plan that caters to former sugar workers who have been unable to find employment.
He assured the protestors that when Parliament reconvenes on Thursday, October 18, 2018, a supplementary budget will be taken before it for approval. This supplementary budget, he said will cater to the payment of severance before year-end.
“We are going to Parliament next week. At the beginning of the year, we said that severance would be paid in two parts. One in the first half of the year and the second part in the second half of the year. You received your first part and you will get your second part in the second half of the year. Sugar workers are going to get their severance and I say so. We are not going to deny sugar workers one dollar of their severance pay. We are also going to work with the unions to make sure that the workers who cannot find employment on the estates are given a soft landing, that is, we will try to provide employment opportunities so that nobody has to suffer,” stated President David Granger.
President Granger also put to rest accusations that the Government is closing down the sugar industry. He made it clear that his administration is seeking to consolidate the sector so as to ensure that it does not continue to haemorrhage the national coffers.
“We decided to reorganise the sugar industry to make it more efficient. We did not kill the sugar industry. We are not killing and closing the sugar industry. We are reforming it,” the Head of State assured the protestors.
The Head of State had announced that a State Lands Sales Commission will be established to ensure there is a rational and transparent disposal of lands, which will no longer fall under the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), taking into consideration, the dismissed sugar workers, Ministries and agencies.
“Now, as far as the closures are concerned, once an estate has been closed, the lands will now be subject to the jurisdiction of, first of all, a State Land Sales Commission, of which the SPU, the Special Purpose Unit under NICIL, will have representation. The idea is that we won’t sell off the family jewels. We’ll make sure that the lands, which are being taken out of sugar, are placed to the benefit of the people of Guyana as a whole. Now, several anomalies and several contradictions may emerge. For example, the Ministry of Agriculture may need some lands in order to settle sugar workers who are interested in settling.
The Ministry of Public Infrastructure would need some lands in terms of its highways and bridges. The Ministry of Communities may need some lands in terms of housing and other Ministries may need lands and private citizens may need lands,” President Granger has said.
Further on September 4, 2018 at the opening of a one-day Conference convened by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) at Grand Coast Inn, East Coast Demerara, Minister of State, Mr. Joseph Harmon had said the issues of the Guyana Sugar Corporation and the sugar industry are not being taken lightly by the Government of Guyana. He said Government has a clear vision for the sugar industry.
Minister Harmon, who was invited to speak on the Government’s position on the sugar industry, also said that all of Government’s efforts, since its assumption to office in 2015 have been focused on consolidating the sugar industry so that it can eventually become financially viable.
The Minister of State reminded that when government assumed office GuySuCo had a debt of $82 billion; US$ 82 million of GuySuCo’s reserves invested in the Skeldon Sugar estate and US$112 million in loans committed to its extension and development.
However, the Skeldon Project failed to achieve its most basic objectives, was operationally inefficient and in the process of its implementation, created a drag on the other sections of the sugar industry. This, coupled with high levels of inefficiency across the rest of the industry with huge declines in both cane yields and factory recovery, resulted in severe financial difficulties. In fact, the industry only survived because of the massive injections of subsidies – some $32 billion dollars of State resources from 2015 to date.