February 9, 2016

Budget 2016 misrepresents economic reality – Irfaan Ali

…”good life”,  an “elusive dream” to most, a reality for a “select few”
Budget measures will fulfil “ good life for all Guyanese” –  Minister Gaskin

By Edward Layne

As the week-long debate on the 2016 National Budget commenced, People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Member of Parliament (MP) Irfaan Ali has declared that the “good life” is just for a select few.
Ali, who opened the debate on Monday afternoon, declared that with Budget 2016, poor Guyanese are poorer while the rich are becoming richer.

PPP/C MP Irfaan Ali

PPP/C MP Irfaan Ali

Business Minister Dominic Gaskin

Business Minister Dominic Gaskin

“The “good life” is an illusion for most and a reality for a ‘select few’. If you are a Minister definitely, you would have enjoyed the ‘good life’. The contract workers are richer today with the handsome payouts as reflected by the $3.7 billion paid out for this category of workers. However, the pensioners, poor families, rice farmers, sugar workers, and public servants are yet to enjoy the ‘good life’. Unfortunately, Budget 2016 will not deliver the ‘good life’ for these Guyanese,” Ali said.
The former Commerce Minister (acting) chastised the Government for the “penance” being offered to the poor in spite of lofty promises by the coalition while on the campaign trail ahead of the May 2015 General Election.
“The sugar workers were not rewarded for their outstanding performance last year, but will have to cope with the closure of some of the estates, regardless of the outcome of the CoI. The rice farmers were crippled with lower prices last year and will have to deal with their problems since ‘rice is not government business’. The reduction in VAT will not come in 2016, but we will have to pay more indirect taxes in the form of increased licence fees that will cripple the poor man and small businesses. The poor will have to pay substantially more for vehicles,” Ali told the House in a passionate presentation.
He maintained that the Budget was aimed at providing benefits for a select few, while placing heavy burdens on the already impoverished, singling out contract workers who will benefit from an allocation of over $9 billion compared with $3.7 billion in 2015, new vehicle importers, and those who should be rewarded for their “contribution or investment” in the political parties.

The economy
Ali said while Finance Minister Winston Jordan indicated that confidence was restored and more investments were made last year – including the numerous investments GO-Invest facilitated – and highlighted the potential value of the investments, he fell way short of speaking directly about the actual investments and the number of new employment opportunities that originated from these investments.
Ali highlighted that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for 2015 was US$125 million, significantly below the target of US$217 million and half the size of the FDI reported in 2014.
“Mr Speaker, it is instructive to note that FDI for 2015 was below the levels reported over the past five years, even 2011 when we had elections and the global economy was in turmoil. The excuse for the lower investment cannot be blamed on election or the downturn in the global economy,” Ali stated.
According to the former Minister, in terms of the business climate and investors’ confidence, the FDI is not the only indicator which suggests the economy is “slipping and sliding downwards”, as the non-performing loans also tell the story better about what is really happening in the local Private Sector.
“According to the Bank of Guyana Third Quarter Statistical Bulletin for 2015, the non-performing loans of business enterprises exploded as businesses struggled to meet their loans payment … Mr Speaker, what we have, is not an expansion of the Private Sector but contraction. Even more worrying is the situation where the banking system is saddled with “toxic loans” that would serve to dissuade lending to the Private Sector.  Unless the Government intervenes, we may very well have a financial and economic crisis that will cost billions to escape and magnify the current economic crisis brewing,” he noted.
Ali said given the economic conditions, responsible leaders would take pre-emptive action instead of hiding their heads in the sand and hoodwinking the public with “fancy speeches that are muddled with half-truths”.

Sound macroeconomic management
He said that any responsible government would have ensured the successful implementation of the public sector investment programme, as a countercyclical measure to halt the decline in the economy and stimulate spending.
“We are in this economic quandary because of the decision by the coalition Government to stall the public sector investment programme which contributes approximately one percentage point to economic growth and cushion external shock. In short, our coalition Government induced a slowdown in the economy by cutting back on capital spending when the economy was on the decline. This is not sound economic management,” Ali stated.

Taxation
Turning his attention to the Budget measures, Ali again took the Government to task for promoting special interests while increasing the tax burden on the poor, adding that after almost one year in office, Guyanese would have expected measures in the Budget that would serve to fulfil coalition promises. Ali highlighted the fact that the Government exempted a few measly items from VAT, instead of fulfilling its promise of a reduction in the VAT, while meagrely increasing the income tax threshold.

Used cars
He also spoke of the ban on used motor vehicles older than eight years, as well as the extensive range of measures to tax the nation further by increasing the fees paid for various licences, including drivers’ licences; fitness; motor vehicle licences; licences for carts drawn by horse, pony, donkey, mule and liquor licences.

Breach of social contract
“The failure to fulfil these promises is a breach of the social contract between the coalition Government and those who voted it into office,” Ali said, adding that the benefits for the poor are “a few hundred dollars more to the pensioners, a few twenty dollars for the vehicle owners”.

Gaskin’s counter
Meanwhile, Business Minister Dominic Gaskin, in countering Ali’s arguments, said he commended the measures in the Budget, which he said would protect the revenue base of the State from threats of depletion, thus enabling Government to fulfil its promise of delivering a good life for all Guyanese.
Speaking to the issue of tax compliance, Gaskin said that the new measures outlined would ensure small businesses became tax compliant.
Speaking directly to measures relating to the Business Ministry, Gaskin announced that the Ministry would provide training support for some 4000 small businesses during 2016.
Through this training, the Minister said, small business owners are expected to be better positioned to better manage their financial and other affairs, as well as better understand the country’s tax laws.
He added that there would also be provision of more loans for small businesses.
Gaskin also promised support, through the $668 million allocated for the Business Ministry, for the Bureau of Statistics and GO-Invest among other agencies under the Ministry.

Share Button

Canje Taxi driver shot by bandits

A Berbice taxi driver is now a patient at the New Amsterdam Hospital nursing a gunshot wound to the leg

Injured, Darshan Rampersaud

Injured, Darshan Rampersaud

after he was attacked and shot by two armed men during a robbery at his Cumberland, East Canje, home on Friday last.
The injured man was identified as Darshan Rampersaud, 39, of Lot 125 Coburg Street, Canje, Berbice. According to reports, the taxi driver returned home at about 20:30h and took off his wristwatch and placed it on the steps along with the day’s earning.
He then went into the kitchen, got some food and went upstairs. While there the two men armed with a cutlass and a gun confronted and ordered him to remain silent.
They demanded he hand over money and valuables but when he resisted, they dealt him several blows to the head and body. During the beating, a bullet was accidently discharged which missed his head.
Reports are the two bandits panicked and started to order each other to kill the man but the neighbours had already heard the gunshot and raised an alarm thus causing the men to flee.
Marlyn Ramsammy, wife of the injured man told Guyana Times that her husband was home alone on the night of the robbery. “He was waiting for the computer to come on when he heard footsteps going up the step. He though that is we came home so he was coming to look and midway in the hall he see two fellows, one with a cutlass and one with a gun and they point the gun to him and tell him to be silent,” the wife related.
The two men, she explained began demanding valuables from Rampersaud while beating him with both the gun and cutlass.
“The one with the gun take the gun and lash he in he head and it went off. The one with the cutlass start telling the one with the gun to shoot he and the one with the gun telling the one with the cutlass no, you no chap he… then the one turn an shoot he on he foot.”
They escaped with the money placed on the stairway and rode off on two bicycles parked a stone’s throw away.
The police have launched an investigation.

Share Button

Essequibo Coast Electrician commits suicide

Twenty-two-year-old Dinesh Chan, also known as Moti, of Reliance Village, Essequibo Coast,

Dinesh Chan

Dinesh Chan

died after he consumed a quantity of poisonous substance.
Chan, who was an electrician, was rushed to the Suddie Public Hospital on February 3 after he was discovered by relatives at his Reliance home.
Reports are Chan had relationship issues. However, according to family members, the popular electrician and dancer never confided in anyone about his problems. As news spread about the young man’s death, his village and the Swarswattie Dance Academy were plunged into mourning. Chan had been a dancer for almost two years with the Academy. Several members of the Dance Academy described him as a very willing and cooperative person.
Meanwhile, three other young persons are battling for their lives at the Oscar Joseph Charity Hospital. The three, who hail from the Pomeroon River area, ingested poisonous substances in separate incidents.
Doctors are monitoring their condition. Only recently, five persons were hospitalised at the Suddie Public Hospital after attempting suicide. Three of those persons succumbed.
Thus far, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) has recorded the highest suicide rate in the country for 2016 with more than eight reported deaths.

Share Button

39,000 Guyanese applied for US visas in 2015 – Ambassador

…over 4900 persons granted permanent resident status

The boom in Guyana’s economy over the past years has been touted as one of the reasons for the increased issuance of non-immigrant (visitors’) visas to the United States to Guyanese.

The US Embassy in Georgetown

The US Embassy in Georgetown

This is according to United States Ambassador to Guyana Perry Holloway. Speaking with Guyana Times late last week during an exclusive interview, the Ambassador reckoned that the growth in this country’ financial system, could be one of the reasons Guyanese have been approaching the Embassy for non-immigrant visas.

US Ambassador to Guyana Perry Holloway

US Ambassador to Guyana Perry Holloway

According to Holloway, the number of visas processed has been increasing over the last 10 years. For 2015, a total of 39,000 Guyanese were interviewed for non-immigrant visas, and way more than half of that number received visas.
“So the word on the street is that nobody receives a visa or only 10 per cent receives a visa…that is not true,” he said, continuing that “the number has gone up”.
He said five years ago, the number of applicants was about 6000. Therefore, for the numbers to leap from 6000 to close to 40,000, was incredible.
“And that makes sense because the Guyanese economy has grown over the last few years; people have more disposable income and now that 9/11 is way behind us, more people want to go visit the States and we encourage Guyanese who want to go to the United States legally, or who want to go study or to do business, we encourage that,” he told Guyana Times.
Providing more statistics, Holloway informed that for last month alone, the Embassy interviewed 7500 Guyanese – one per cent of the country’s population. More than half of those persons, he said, were issued with their visas.
Asked if there are any instances of persons overstaying their time, Holloway said deportation has gone down significantly over the last couple of years.
“There are some people who … are turned down because they believe you might be going to work, we have not seen an increase in these incidences.”
Meanwhile, as it relates to the number receiving the immigrant or permanent visa, the Ambassador said this has been relatively stable over the last five years or so.
“It is somewhere between 4300 and 4900 every year. Last year was a little over 4900,” he said.

Share Button

Debate begins today

Budget 2016

The National Assembly will become the hub of attention over the next few days as Parliamentarians from both sides of the house are expected to debilitate on the $230 billion Budget 2016 – the largest ever – presented by Finance Minister Winston Jordan last week.
Jordan‘s Budget, the second presented within eight months is dubbed “Stimulating Growth, Restoring Confidence: The Good Life Beckons”. But while Government seemingly has moved in the direction to provide a “good life” for Guyanese, criticisms have already begun pouring in on the country’s financial plan. Parliament Building
Opposition leader Bharrat Jagdeo said the Budget 2016 is anything but a good life for Guyanese. He highlighted some areas where Government could have been a little more lenient and has called on the administration to humanise the budget by reversing and adjusting some of measures outlined in favour of policies and programmes that will directly benefit the poor and struggling masses, as well as emerging small-scale Guyanese businesses.
People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Chief Whip Gail Teixeira has labelled this year’s Budget a “taxation” budget even as she hinted that the debates will be “hot”. She, along with several opposition Parliamentarians had met with Journalists last Wednesday, where their criticisms mounted over sections of the financial plan.
Based on their condemnation, it was obvious what particular areas would be debated during the course of this week.
The Party’s shadow Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony had much to say about attention being given to maternal health in this year’s Budget, and was very concerned about Government backpedalling on its commitment to complete the maternity ward of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and the promised increased number of staff in this area. These things have not been done.
He also mentioned the state of affairs within the health sector at it relates to the procurement of drugs and said that although some $6.5 billion has been allocated for the procurement of drugs, the country will continue to experience drug shortage.
Another issue raised by the Shadow Health Minister was the attention in the Budget for suicide. While Government will be mounting a Commission of Inquiry in the incidence of suicide, Anthony said there has not been any financial allocation to fund measures that experts have unearthed.
Speaking also at the press conference was Shadow Education Minister Priya Manickchand, who said Government was unaware of the direction it wants to take the masses of Guyanese children, since she has not seen any fruitful measure that indicates this.
She also questioned Government’s funding of the ‘Three Bs’ programme and the move by Government to remove the education voucher programme.
She also has concerns about Government’s move to politicized the education system and highlighted the painting of buses and boats to be used for student transportation in colours matching those used by the A Partnership for National Unity/ Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition green and yellow as an example. “It is offensive,” she said
Shadow Minister of Social Protection Dr Vindhya Persaud was concerned about the absence of women’s programmes and financial aid for women.
She said the Child Protection Agency (CPA) continues to battle with staff shortage and the inadequate social workers at shelters in the Berbice, Region six (East Berbice-Corentyne) area.
She declared that the Budget lacks any consideration for the ordinary person.
Meanwhile, Pauline Sukhai, Shadow Minister of Indigenous Peoples Affairs, also spoke of the absence of anything meaningful in the Budget for Amerindians and their communities.

Share Button

2 critical after horrific Essequibo accident

Two men are currently battling for their lives in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Suddie Public Hospital after they were involved in a head-on motorcycle collision on Sunday.

Rice farmer Ganesh Lall, 36, of Lima Sands and Lakeram Lall, 28, of Lot 44 Anna Regina Housing Scheme, Essequibo Coast are listed as critical.

According to reports, the accident occurred around 15:00h on Sunday at the Essequibo Technical Institute (ETI) Chinese Lock entrance. Information is that Ganesh Lall was riding motorcycle CE 1061 when he collided with Lakeram Lall riding motorcycle PFF 7071.

Ganesh was heading to his Lima Sands home, and as he approached the junction he collided with Lakeram. It was indicated that the junction can be hazardous as it is difficult for oncoming traffic to notice oncoming traffic.

After hearing the collision, a rice farmer on a nearby field rushed to the scene where he discovered the unconscious men several feet from their motorcycles with blood oozing from their bodies. Both seemed in critical condition. He immediately alerted other public-spirited citizens who rushed the duo to hospital where they underwent emergency surgeries. They both suffered extensive head injuries, as well as broken arms and feet.

According to a Police source it appears that both men are unlicensed motorists. The incident is the second motorcycle accident in the region for the year.

On Saturday, Crisnauth Cassinauth, 48, of Queenstown, Essequibo Coast, lost his life after his motorcycle collided with a car on the Suddie Public Road.

Share Button

La Grange accident leaves 3 hospitalised

The badly damaged car

The badly damaged car

Three persons are now hospitalised as a result of an accident on the La Grange Public Road, West Bank Demerara on Sunday morning.

Speaking with this publication a resident in the area explained that a loud noise was heard, which led several persons to investigate what was occurring. The resident said that upon arriving he saw a badly damaged silver Carina car partly submerged in the trench. Public spirited citizens assisted in getting the injured persons out and transported them to hospital.

Traffic Chief Deon Moore when contracted told this newspaper that the three passengers of the vehicle are currently hospitalised. He said the injured persons are listed as serious but stable at the Georgetown Public Hospital.

The driver is presently in police custody.

Details surrounding the accident are still sketchy as investigations are ongoing.

Share Button

Assistant Police Commissioner critical after crashing into utility pole

Assistant Commissioner of Police (Administration), Balram Persaud is battling for his life at the Dr Balwant

ACP Balram Persaud

ACP Balram Persaud

Singh Hospital following an accident on West Bank Demerara close to the Demerara Harbour Bridge on Friday evening at about 23:00h.
Information reaching Guyana Times revealed that at the time of the accident, Persaud who is on leave was heading to a police function in the city when he allegedly lost control of his car and slammed into a utility pole. From reports Persaud might have been under the influence of alcohol.
This publication understands that Persaud was taken to the private hospital where doctors confirmed he had suffered broken ribs. Sources told Guyana Times say at least six ribs were broken.
The ACP who has been in and out of hospital for heart complications has served in various capacities in the Guyana Police Force including Commander of C Division.
When contacted, Traffic Chief Dion Moore told Guyana Times the ACP was involved in an accident and that his condition remains serious. He noted that the police on West Bank Demerara received a report of an accident and immediately went to the scene to investigate but the injured man had already been rushed to hospital.
Police ranks he said, subsequently learnt it was the ACP when they visited the hospital. He noted that a statement pertaining to the accident is yet to be taken from the official while noting that no one came forward to give an account of what transpired.
The traffic chief could not verify if there were any other occupants of the car but Guyana Times was told there were at least two others at the time of the accident.
An investigation has been launched into the accident.

Share Button

Contract workers skyrocket in every ministry except foreign, legal affairs

– Govt wage bill costing taxpayers 147% more

Revelations have surfaced showing that the number of contract workers skyrocketed under the new A

PPP/C Parliamentarian Irfaan Ali

PPP/C Parliamentarian Irfaan Ali

Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change Government even though it has being in the executive office for a mere eight months.
This revelation is being made even though the government has denied claims that there is a substantive change.
Despite criticising the previous administration of undermining the public service and of paying contractual employees “fat cat” salaries, information have revealed that the number of contract workers under the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) government not only inflated by 16 per cent but that the total employment cost for all the ministries have amounted to a humungous $30.5 billion.
In fact, contract employees have escalated in all ministries except for the Foreign Affairs and Legal Affairs Ministries with the Office of the Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo capitalising on a 73 per cent increase in the number of contract workers who are budgeted to pocket a total of approximately $82 million at the end of the year; an increase of over 280 per cent as opposed to the 2015.
According to sources, some of these contract employees are working in various regions and are collecting hefty sums through the Prime Minister’s office.
For the Ministry of Presidency, contract employees have jumped from 298 to 505; Finance Ministry from 162 to 167; Indigenous Affairs Ministry from 72 to 79; Agriculture Ministry from 248 to 274; Tourism Ministry from 31 to 40; Business Ministry from 30 to 40; Natural Resources Ministry from 38 to 56; Public Infrastructure Ministry from 271 to 294; Education Ministry from 601 to 691; Communities Ministry form 55 to 62; Public Health Ministry from 1303 to 1400; Social Protection Ministry from 369 to 371 and Public Security Ministry from 239 to 248 while the newly introduced Public Telecommunication Ministry contracted 122 employees.
Consequently, the total employment cost for all of the Ministries climbed from around $12 billion to in excess of $30 billion; a radical increase of 147 per cent when compared to the previous year.
Moreover, though there is a decrease in the number of contract workers for the Foreign Affairs and Legal Affairs Ministries, the employment costs have risen by a considerable 8 per cent.

Insulting to public servants
Contacted for a comment, Opposition parliamentarian and economist Irfaan Ali pointed out that clearly, the refutation by the government is far from reality.
He also noted that the issue goes far beyond the bloating of the contractual employment.
“For a matter of fact, not only is there a significant increase in contractual employment, there is also significant increases in salaries. What is important to note is that there is no indication of the new positions created and the process utilised by government in filling those positions. What structure of salary was used in determining the pay-scale against their qualifications,” Ali stated.
Switching to the his political cap, the former government minister declared that this move by the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) coalition administration is insulting to the public sector workers who were denied wage increases this year.
“The public servants did not get their promised increases and for us to hire contractual employees at such a significant number and paying them outside of the pay-scale; what does that say. Persons who were working for a number of years who did not benefit from any major increases but persons are now entering the system as contractual employees and they are enjoying super-salaries,” Ali posited as he exposed the discriminatory approach being practiced by the government.

Memory-lane
In April 2012, APNU Parliamentarian Carl Greenidge had accused the then government of systematically destroying the public service by increasing the number of contract workers and paying them “fat-cat” salaries.
APNU Parliamentarian Basil Williams had also argued that government was spending exorbitant amounts to pay contract workers and demanded that the practice be ceased immediately.
In the same year, the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) stated that the practice is “illegal” and should immediately come to a halt. The Union also posited that all employees should be employed within the Public Service structure and remunerated in a fair and even manner receiving equal pay for work of equal value consistent with Government’s undertaking and obligations.
Notably, APNU Joseph Harmon shortly after his government assumed office in May, committed his government to reviewing the employment of contract workers in light of the fact that they are paid a higher salary than public servants.
“We will review these as a matter of policy. We said we were going to review them and it is just a matter of time before we do so…A day has already passed; this is day one; we have 99 days left to deliver on these promises,” Harmon had stated.
In its review of this year’s Budget – Budget Focus 2016 – Ram and McRae Chartered Accounting firm highlighted that the coalition Government had almost doubled the number of contract employees over the past months.
But government was quick to rebuff the information and accused the media of misleading the public.
Natural Resources Minister and Government spokesperson Raphael Trotman explained that the number was high because at the time the Budget was being prepared there were several Ministries and State agencies under the Ministry of the Presidency, some of which have since branched out independently.
“So this is why you would see what appears to be a jump, but as I said, there has not been this mass hiring of people (but) because of the bundling and the new functions of the Ministry of the Presidency… It is not that this Government has gone out and hire hundreds of people because it feels it wants to do so,” he outlined.
He went on to say that when the APNU/AFC Administration took office in May 2015, there was a total of 375 staff at the Office of the President, but this figure was since reduced to 325 as of January 2016.
“Depending on how you look at statistics, you will always have a different view,” the Minister stated.
State Minister Joseph Harmon also weighed in on the controversy, explaining that the Ministry of the Presidency comprised the Office of the President, the Ministry of Social Cohesion and the Ministry of Citizenship, and still included the Public Service Department, along with accompanying departments such as the General Register Office, Immigration, E-Governance, the National Community Development Council and also the Ministry of Natural Resources, which only recently branched off.
He noted that as of January 2016, the Public Service Department, previously the Public Service Ministry, had a total of 50 staff; the Department of Natural Resources, 58; the Ministry of Citizenship, 141 and E-Governance, 69.

Share Button

Wales’ closure is a “big mistake” – former President Ramotar

– says investment needed to restore industry

Former President Donald Ramotar has stated that the sugar industry has a bright future and instead of shutting down the nominal amount of factories that are left, Government needs to invest in the sector.

Former President Donald Ramotar

Former President Donald Ramotar

Ramotar was at the time speaking with Guyana Times on the recent decision to close the Wales Factory, which he said is a big mistake that will not only reap short-term effects but will see the country suffering in the long-run as well.
“I think it is a big mistake to try to close the Wales Estate at this time and I believe the sugar industry still has a bright future. Of course it has its problems, but if you go back into the history of sugar, you will see that there have been periods when it went into problems but it has always been able to come out of difficulties, and so too I believe that now the difficulties that it has, it can come out of them without closing any of the Estates,” he stated.
According to the former President, by shutting down the Wales Factory, not only will sugar workers be put on the breadline but their families and well as the community will be affected. He noted that the closure will unnecessarily put the workers out of employment when the industry can be restored to its previous viable state.
Ramotar, who was previously a member of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Board of Directors, further outlined that Wales is one of the major areas for cane farming and the closure will affect the farmers.
“The closing of Wales is being penny-wise and pound foolish in many ways. It is very short-sighted and shows that this regime has no vision for the development of the sugar industry. No doubt, sugar needs help now but it will repay that many, many times over in the near future,” he added.

Investment
The former President believes that with sufficient investment, the industry can be placed back on its feet. “My own personal view is that there is a big bright future for sugar and what it needs is investment at this point in time.”
In its 2016 Budget, Government has announced that $9 billion was allocated to the industry to “assist the industry in its recovery and modernisation programme”. However, Ramotar noted that he had promised during the 2015 election campaign to inject some $20 billion into the sector.
Moreover, Ramotar pointed out that the major troubles the industry is facing are being fuelled by international factors, such as low and fluctuating sugar prices and changing trading arrangements, particularly in Europe.
Furthermore, he recognised that the sugar industry has been plagued with problems, such as climate change, which has affected the production process. He noted that in the 1990s, the opportunity days of doing work in the field on sugar were 120 in Berbice and 110 in Demerara but this has changed over the years due to climate change. Currently, Berbice only has 80 day while Demerara has about 75.
Ramotar highlighted another issue that has affected sugar industry – the loss of labour over the years. He explained that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administrative had improved the quality of the economy with rice and mining, even construction growing at a rapid pace; hence a lot of the labour was attracted away from the sugar industry.
“At one time, in many areas sugar was the only form of employment but over the years this changed with many alternatives being created,” he said while adding that the current Government needs to do some level of mechanisation in the fields to supplement the labour shortage that exists and that is anticipated as the economy continues to grow.

Diversification
On the other hand, the former Head of State posited that the current Administration needs to take immediate actions to sustain the sugar sector. Ramotar even recommended that Government diversify the sector in order to make it viable once again.
He outlined that there are a lot of possibilities that GuySuCo can go into other than sugar. Ramotar pointed to the fact that the Skeldon Estate is currently generating electricity and so Berbice is getting most of its energy from Skeldon with co-generation. He noted a lot of co-generation project can also be done at the Albion and Enmore Estates.
“All of these are possibilities to earn GuySuCo more money,” he posited. Moreover, the former President said that GuySuCo has started to package sugar, which was a very good move since it improves the quality and prices.
“We can do more of that. We can also do other things, with little investment we can do a distillery, we can do ethanol. These are things that can be done with joint ventures. We were also bottling molasses and that has also taken the market with very good rates, so value-added is the way to go,” he further declared.
Ramotar noted that while sugar is the bottom line of the industry and has a bright future, Government needs to look at some of the companies that get their raw materials from sugar to see how well they are doing.
He made a reference to Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), which continues to rake in billions of dollars by using sugar to produce their main product – rum. “So measuring GuySuCo only at the bottom line is not always the best thing to do,” Ramotar noted.

Share Button