Head of the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), Komal Chand would like to see a full and comprehensive breakdown of funding given to the sugar industry in recent years before considering an offer of appointment to the GuySuCo Board of Directors.
Chand told Stabroek News on Tuesday that if the Guyana Sugar Corporation and President Donald Ramotar were serious about overhauling the industry the full financial disclosure had to become an integral part of any measures to rebrand and rehabilitate the struggling sector. He told Stabroek News that the President’s decision on Monday to offer him a position on the GuySuCo board had not been finalized.
GAWU has long sought a seat on the GuySuco board and Ramotar’s offer on Monday at the annual Enmore Martyrs commemoration appeared to be an attempt to defuse the stinging attack on management of the sugar corporation by Chand who had spoken before the President.
Chand’s criticism on Monday of the GuySuCo management and the government again exhibited the deep divide over the state of the sugar industry. GAWU, a longstanding ally of the ruling party, has grown increasingly critical of how the corporation and the government have been handling the industry.
Speaking to Stabroek News on Tuesday in the aftermath of the offer on Monday, Chand said that the current board had to be reconfigured once it expired and a new board could be finalized by the end of July. Chand stated that there had been public statements by both the President and the Agriculture Minister, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, however the board could take up to an additional month to be finalized.
He said that his impression after the President’s address at Monday’s event was that the board may not be announced by July. Chand stated that he would prefer to speak about the potential appointment after the offer is concretised, noting that the President merely made an announcement on the issue.
Chand reiterated to Stabroek News that the sugar industry was facing real problems and that those needed to be addressed. “You know I’ve said it before, I said it at Enmore again…the (GuySuCo) board is headless,” Chand declared. He continued that the management system was flawed and the appointment of the previous board chairman, Rajendra Singh to the position of CEO did little to ease worries over the management structure of the state-owned company.
He said that the over $31 billion that was handed over for the industry by the European Union (EU) as the accompanying measures to the reform of the EU sugar regime needed to be broken down. Chand noted that the President and GuySuCo have made the case that the government had given more to the industry than the EU’s contributions. “They said they have given more to the industry, so they can show it”. He told Stabroek News that the union would welcome a financial analysis of how the various monies inclusive of government subventions were broken down.
“If they say that they have given more than that let them disclose and we will then get from the EU a report from them to show just how much was released to the government…we still insist that all disbursements have not been made and they just keep saying general statements. Clear the air otherwise we don’t have any appointments”, Chand stated.
During his address at Enmore, Chand had noted that a new board was long overdue. President Ramotar then invited Chand to sit on the next GuySuCo Board.
The offer was made publicly before an audience of government and other officials. The president had disagreed with Chand’s assessment of the industry and instead blamed climate change, the discontinuation of preferential trade agreements with the EU and labour shortages for the problems confronting Guyana’s sugar sector.
He did not 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….”
Chand was one of two union leaders invited to address the rally. The other was President of the umbrella body FITUG, Carvil Duncan