BHARRAT Jagdeo shamelessly looked at a room filled with members of the Association of Concerned Guyanese at a dinner held in Toronto, Canada, November 3, 2019 and said, “Instead of closing sugar estates and creating an economic and social vacuum, a fact-based approach that included impact studies should have been pursued by the government…” This empty-worded political rhetoric would give one the impression that Bharrat Jagdeo lived in a vacuum at his “Pradoville” mansion while being far from reality. For those who are not familiar with the tactics of the opposition leader, they should know that he is one who conveniently forgets and twists information conveniently. I wish to highlight a few things that the opposition leader deliberately failed to mention to our Canadian brothers and sisters.
Bharrat Jagdeo failed to state that the PPP closed the 6000-acre Diamond Sugar Estate in 2010 and had the workers protesting for months for their severance pay. In 2009, former President Jagdeo commissioned a US$200 Million (GY$40 Billion) new sugar factory, located at Skeldon, Berbice, even though the European Union had discontinued its 32-year-old preferential price trading pact with Guyana and 17 other African, Caribbean and Pacific sugar-producing countries in the year 2006. The loss of the preferential sugar prices by the European Union amounted to a 36 per cent drop in prices and some G$7Billion in losses each year for GuySuco.
These perilous times faced by the sugar injury were predicted by the National Development Strategy since 1996. The National Development Strategy (NDS) of 1996, which was crafted by 23 working groups, highlighted the high rate at which the cost of sugar production was escalating at the time.The late Dr Kenneth King ( PhD Forestry Economics from Oxford University) one of Guyana’s most brilliant minds, who was former Minister of Economic Development under the late President Hoyte, was co-ordinator of the committee that put together the revised National Development Strategy, with the growth of the economy being its primary objective.
In 1996, the PPP administration was informed that if by the end of the 1997 cane-harvesting cycle at the Wales Sugar Estate was not able to reduce its production costs, the estate should be closed after that crop. Additionally, the situation at the Uitvlugt and Enmore sugar estates faced an evaluation which also hinged on production costs, with the aim of making them viable by the year 2000, or phasing them out if they proved otherwise. The national development strategy report stated that an industry-planning exercise carried out early in 1995 suggested that profits before levy and taxes were expected to decline by about three-fourths in real terms between 1995 and 1999. This was attributed mainly to the expected downward trend in sugar prices, but also because production costs were increasing. The report stated that in 1996, three sugar estates were going to lose money, and in 1997, a fourth one was forecasted to join them. All four of these estates were in the Demerara region, while the ones located in the Berbice region were profitable.
In 2012 GuySuCo received a subsidy of G$4Billion; G$5.4Billion in 2013; G$6Billion in 2014; G$12Billion in 2015 and G$11Billion in 2016, with a projected G$18.6Billion in 2017 for the industry’s survival. Even though Guysuco received these subsidies, GuySuco still incurred the following losses: G$17.5 billion in 2014, G$18.1 billion in 2015 and G$12.1 billion in 2016.
The Hon Noel L Holder, MP, Minister of Agriculture stated, “GUYSUCO
incurred a debt of more than G$82 billion by 2015. Within less than two
years (since 2015), Government subsidies were estimated to be G$32
billion” (State Paper on the Future of the Sugar Industry presented to
the National Assembly; May 8, 2017). Given the above facts it begs the
question, “Is this the industry that Bharrat Jagdeo is still promising
In January 2017, the National Assembly’s Economic Services Committee was informed by then GuySuCo Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman, that GuySuco’s debt stood at $77 billion. This debt was owed to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS); the Guyana Revenue Authority; the Caribbean Development Bank and many other entities. (Guyana Times Newspapers;https://guyanatimesgy.com/guysuco-still-buried-under-77b-debt-bhim/; February 27, 2018)
In 2017, the APNU+AFC government announced the closure of several
sugar estates; initially, the Wales sugar estate was named as the first
to be closed one year after it was announced for closure. Later several
other estates in the Berbice belt were closed, as keeping these estates
open was severely paralysing Guyana’s economy. It must be noted that His
Excellency Brigadier Retired, David Arthur Granger, our caring
President, ensured that the sugar estates the APNU+AFC administration
were forced to close, arrangements were put in place to ensure that the
sugar workers were paid their severance, some of them were transferred
to other sugar estates and some were exposed to life skills training.
Jagdeo’s web of deception concerning GuySuco reveals that Jagdeo did not care for any of the sugar workers. Jagdeo and the PPP knew that the sugar industry was doomed to failure since the 1990s and in the early 2000s. When the European Union advised Jagdeo to divest the sugar industry, Jagdeo did nothing! Jagdeo did not seek to create alternative employment for the Guysuco workers, Jagdeo used the workers and the sugar industry to conveniently guarantee votes.
Jagdeo played on the vulnerability of the sugar workers and gave them the impression that, that was the only job they could do. He pretended to act in their best interest while plundering the treasury to keep this industry which was failing since the 1990s, open. It must be noted that when Jagdeo closed the Diamond Sugar Estate that he did nothing to support the workers.
The dishonest Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo is now promising to
reopen the sugar estates. The development of national industries should
last for generations. Is this the employment that Jagdeo is promising
our young people? Rather than advancing technological ideas and
industries, Jagdeo is promising our young people a hoe, cutlass, and
shovel. Even though it is disappointing, I know the nature of the beast —
the beast which is offering the Guyanese public a presidential
candidate with unverified qualifications.