President Donald Ramotar yesterday invited sugar workers’ union president Komal Chand to sit on the next GuySuCo Board of Directors, in an effort to dispel his perception that the corporation’s failings are at least partially the result of bad management.
The offer was made publicly before an audience of government and other officials last evening during a rally held at the Enmore Martyrs Monument Site, at Enmore, East Coast Demerara. The rally was held to commemorate Enmore Martyrs’ Day.
Chand, head of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers’ Union (GAWU), was one of two union leaders invited to address the rally. The other was President of umbrella body FITUG, Carvil Duncan.
During his presentation, Chand blamed GuySuCo’s depressed state on bad management of the sugar company by its board. “A new board of directors is long, long overdue…, especially since the last Chairman became the new Chief Executive Officer, leaving GuySuCo headless and the present board headless,” Chand told the gathering during the rally.
The president, however, disagreed that the company’s difficulties are a result of bad management. Instead, he blamed climate change, the discontinuation of preferential trade agreements with the European Union (EU), and labour shortages for the problems confronting Guyana’s sugar sector.
The president was so confident in his argument that he invited Chand to sit on the next Board of Directors when the current one expires a month from now. “The board will come to an end in a month’s time and we will have a new board. I’m inviting publicly the president of the union to sit on the board, if he so desires, because this was an invitation given before. …I’m now making it public that the president of the union is invited to sit on the next GuySuCo board to help manage the industry to see for themselves if the management is trying to shortchange the workers,” Ramotar said.
The president’s invitation was greeted by loud cheers by sugar workers who attended the rally.
Chand also said that all of the money given by the EU for the sector should be given to the industry to assist in its development. “The industry needs to benefit from the full release by the government of all EU monies intended for the sugar industry,” he demanded.
Since the implementation of the Guyana National Action Plan in 2006, the EU has provided over €114 million ($31.1 billion) inclusive of the 2012 provision of €23.35 million which was distributed last year. The funding was a result of the accompanying measures agreed by the European Parliament to ease the pain of EU sugar regime reforms on countries like Guyana.
Questions have been raised as to how much of that money went directly to reforming the troubled sugar industry here. The government here is yet to provide a breakdown of how the amounts were spent.
During an interview last year, Chand told Stabroek News that he would like to see “every cent” of the money go toward assisting the industry to become more competitive.
While some of the EU money has indeed gone into the sugar industry, Stabroek News understands that the funds have been used for purposes such as the servicing of the loan sourced to finance the construction of the controversial Skeldon Sugar Factory.
The president, however, did not opt to offer any explanation on the expenditure of the EU funds. Instead, he told those gathered that “the [Guyana] government has been supporting the industry in many ways. As far as the [EU] money is concerned, let me say that the money that the government puts into the industry is more than the money that we get from the EU….”
Ramotar referenced government’s allocation of $6 billion to GuySuCo this year to help undertake capital works aimed at improving efficiency. Such investments, he said, are proof of government’s commitment to the industry.