Jagdeo accuses Gov’t of ‘kleptocracy’ in sale of sugar assets

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Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo wants the Government to be completely open and transparent about the sale of sugar assets and has warned against sweetheart deals in the sale of factories and lands.

At a press conference Thursday, he spoke of the $30 billion-dollar bond for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), which is being managed by the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) of Government’s investment arm NICIL.

The bond was secured to recapitalise the three estates which were left standing after four were shut down. The Sugar Corporation has already been handed $7.4 billion of the bond.

On Monday, the SPU revealed that it has already repaid interest on the bond in excess of $780 million.

The Opposition Leader had concerns about the bond, saying there seemed to have been no economic rationale for borrowing the money.

He said as far as he knew, the money was not sitting in an interest-bearing account while NICIL needs to repay 4.75 percent interest on the money it took. He expressed concern about the billions of dollars which will have to be repaid.

With the bond to go towards getting the three standing estates in shape and returning the sugar Corporation to profitability, the properties of the closed estates are being sold off, with the factories being sold off and lands being leased.

The Opposition Leader said the checks and balances to ensure transparency with such transactions are no longer in place.

He said NICIL and the SPU are now the only authorities managing privatisation. This, he said, bypasses the previous arrangement whereby all deals went through the Privatisation Unit and were vetted by the private sector, unions, and others before it was sent to Cabinet for approval.

Now, he said that process has been dismantled and there is no independent scrutiny of the privatisation deals.

The SPU this week announced that the Rose Hall estate could potentially go to a consortium of investors from India and Ghana. The deal is being arranged by PricewaterhouseCoopers, an international financial firm which was hired by the Government to value the assets of GUySuCo and manage the divestment.

But again, Jagdeo has concerns about transparency.

He said that it is the Government’s duty to make public the valuation done by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Government expects a deal for the Rose Hall estate to be clinched by the end of July. There have been no solid takers on estates at Skeldon and Enmore.

The SPU has claimed that valuing the assets has taken time because GUySuCo has not been forthcoming in providing the detailed explanations that are needed; GuySuCo says that’s not true.

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