Plan must be outlined to ensure sugar does not return as ‘black hole’- Cathy Hughes
Opposition Parliamentarian Cathy Hughes on Tuesday said the PPP Government has no system in place to ensure that the sugar industry does not return to a “black hole” even as it plans to reopen major estates closed in 2016-2018.
In her remarks during the ongoing 2020 Budget debate, Hughes who appeared virtually alluded to the performance of the sugar industry in recent years which has failed to meet its production targets.
She said plans to reopen the closed estates do not come from a point of profitability or competitive advantage.
“You are planning to reopen sugar estates that failed to have a competitive advantage when it comes to production cost. No plan is articulated in this Budget to ensure that we do it in a different way and it doesn’t become the black hole it was in the past,” the APNU+AFC Member of Parliament said.
“Instead we will hand over triumphantly more than $5B of taxpayers’ money as payback to the political supporters,” Hughes said referring to the recent bailout announced for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo).
Hughes said the 2020 Budget lacks consultation and is not reflective of the economy in its current state.
But her comment was met with sharp criticisms from Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat who spoke after.
He said the PPP has promised to reopen the estates and that will be done with the exception of the Wales Sugar Estate on the West Bank of Demerara which he accused the former administration of scavenging.
“We had promised that we will reopen the sugar estates and we will do that because we would have budgeted $5B to reopen the Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore Sugar Estates and that we will do,” Bharrat said.
He added that “unfortunately, we cannot open the Wales sugar estate because of the state in which you would have reduced it today, selling out the materials as scrap iron that was the trade at the Wales of sugar estate.”
The Natural Resources Minister reminded that over 7,000 sugar workers were fired in 2016-2018 and were told to look for jobs in the oil industry.
But “the oil industry is a capital intensive industry and not a labour-intensive industry, there is no way that the oil industry would be able to employ more than what GuySuCo employ,” he said.
The Guyana Government has asked the Indian Government to help reopen the sugar estates which were closed. That country has committed to sending two technical officers to Guyana to assist with the re-organization of the sugar industry.
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha also told the workers’ unions that India was engaged in acquiring the equipment necessary to assemble factories at estates that were closed.
Mustapha is set to give his Budget presentation on Thursday.