By Neil Marks
The Special Purpose Unit (SPU) set up to manage the divestment of the sugar industry is close to finalising a deal with an investor, to keep the Enmore estate up and running.
The SPU is also courting other investors to keep activities alive at the other three estates which have been closed with the hope that this will make them more attractive for potential buyers.
“We have entered into an advanced stage of discussions with a potential investor, who is willing, in the interim stage while the divestment is going on, to provide the necessary finance to keep the (Enmore) estate going,” Shawn Persaud, the Privatisation Specialist, at the SPU told the News Room on Friday, January 26, 2018.
He added: “We have actually prepared a proposal and packaged that to the investor to the best of our ability.
“So the investor are now doing their due diligence on such a proposal and… if they are happy with what is being signalled in the proposal, we could look as early as the first crop of this year…to actually keep the estate going.”
The Enmore factory is one of the most iconic across the sugar belt, mainly because of an incident in 1948 when five sugar workers were killed by British colonial Police, immortalising them as the Enmore Martyrs.
The closure of the estate at the end of last month sent shockwaves in the community, but the announcement Friday by the SPU was welcomed by residents.
It’s not just Enmore that the SPU hopes to get going again soon; it is looking for similar arrangements at the other three estates which have been closed. The idea is that estates kept alive will make them more attractive for potential buyers.
There have been expressions of interest from some 70 entities, including investors from the USA, Australia, India and Thailand. But Persaud noted that the call for Expressions of Interest is being reopened on advice of international accounting firm PricwaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Once all of the Expressions of Interest are received, the potential investors will then be written to formally with a proposal for their consideration.
Persaud said that the Special Purpose Unit is open to various forms of investments on the estates, including joint ventures.
The closure of the four estates has resulted in the retrenchment of over 4, 700 workers.
Minister of Public Telecommunciations, Cathy Hughes Friday told retrenched workers at Enmore that the sugar industry will always be needed in Guyana, citing the needs of the rum industry as an example.
“You got to have sugar to get the molasses to get the rum; we’re not going to throw that away,” she stated.
With the investor interest, Minister of Business, Dominic Gaskin, assured the former sugar workers that they have not been abandoned.
“It is not the fault of the workers that GuySuCo (Guyana Sugar Corporation) has found itself in trouble. Bad decisions, bad investment, bad leadership and bad management have brought GuySuCo to where it is today,” he declared to the former workers at a meeting called at the staff compound of the Enmore estate.