- was forewarned by Anthony Vieira, must accept responsibility,” – Former APNU MP
After A Partnership for National Unity’s (APNU) Shadow Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dr. Rupert Roopnaraine confessed that the $6B voted for the bailout of the Guyana Sugar Corporation was a mistake, a former APNU Parliamentarian has lashed out at the politician. “This mistake reflects the incompetence of the Opposition.”
Jaipaul Sharma said that the political opposition was forewarned about the economic peril that would follow from the “Skeldon catastrophe”. APNU was also told that the change of its board and mechanization of the sugar industry would not solve the problems it is constantly faced with.
Sharma commended Anthony Vieira, who he said has been an “exceptional advisor” on agricultural matters to the APNU.
He said, “The Opposition was very much aware that the continued support for this bailout would not have made any sense in the end. They went ahead and they voted for the money for GuySuCo because it was a politically sensitive matter.
Now what has become of that decision? Today, we are made aware that the sugar company owes over US$170M in debt and Roopnaraine who is supposed to be the Shadow Minister of Agriculture is saying that that was a mistake? A $6B mistake? They should be held responsible for that money that was wasted because it did not make a difference. GuySuCo now wants more money.
“Why didn’t APNU ensure that it had in hand, an effective plan from the company? I would not have given that money to GuySuCo.”
Vieira said that given all the present declarations of the corporation’s dire situation as relayed to the Economics Services Committee, by senior managers of GuySuCo, he agrees with Dr. Roopnaraine, that the party made a mistake.
Roopnaraine during the recent committee meetings in addressing the possible request of a further $6B by the company to buy harvesters in a hope to return the company to profitability by next year, said that the opposition would no longer agree “to the granting of these large sums of monies to bail out GuySuCo without a specific plan laid out to us stating exactly how it will be applied and how we can anticipate how the improvements will be made.”
However, Vieira said that he would not have released the $6 billion bailout for GuySuCo without much more information from the Board of GuySuCo as to the exact economic situation of the Corporation, its immediate plans and the effect that tranche requested in the 2014 budget would have made to GuySuCo’s ongoing economic wellbeing.
Former Parliamentarian Sharma had also stated, “(The opposition) was forewarned by one of its own and the decision as to whether it should have voted for that money should have been informed by Vieira’s advice.
“The Opposition should have been stern and hold firm to its position. It is simply unacceptable of our opposition to behave like this. In the end it all just reflects a level of incompetence from the politicians of the opposition’s side.”
Vieira said that the Alliance For Change (AFC) and the APNU must work more closely together to undo the massive damage to the country’s economy that the PPP has unleashed both in rice and in sugar.
“No one must attempt to lay blame, but the supporters of these two parties must urge their leaders to work together for the common good to undo the damage done to Guyana by the PPP.”
Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, recently said that Government believes that GuySuCo’s future lies in mechanization and diversification. He pointed to an ethanol pilot project ongoing at Albion Estate in Berbice which he said, will determine how GuySuCo proceeds in the future.
GuySuCo’s option of going the ethanol route is one that the Opposition has indicated a willingness to support as well.
But according to Vieira, GuySuCo’s excursions into the production of ethanol, since Guyana is located just north of the world’s greatest ethanol producer, Brazil, is less than compelling.
In a recent letter Vieira, a former Member of Parliament, said that since September 2013, the world market price for sugar was fluctuating between US$0.16 a pound and US$0.19 a pound.
He argued that the long term outlook for sugar, as far as price is concerned, is not good since Guyana’s cost of production as reported by GuySuCo to the Economics Services Committee was 34 cents a pound, 100 percent higher than the world market price today.
According to GuySuCo’s outgoing Finance Director, Paul Bhim, GuySuCo owes banks – both local and foreign, suppliers, the Guyana Revenue Authority, the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund Committee (SILWFC) some $58B.
GuySuCo is asking for patience, saying that Guyana will have to wait until 2017, as part of its strategy to turn the fortunes of the industry around, to bring production prices to about US$0.27 per pound.
However Vieira feels that the opposition is not convinced that this is possible, given the current indebtedness of GuySuCo, the poor yields, the unattainable goals of the corporation, the difficulties of mechanization and the high cost of production per tonne currently applicable in the industry.