On January 24, Stabroek News carried a letter by Joey Jagan in relation to the sugar industry (‘What is going on in the sugar industry?’). I wish to respond to some of the issues raised.
Before doing so allow me to thank Joey for the complimentary remarks he made about me. I appreciate them.
Over the past weeks Guysuco has been in the press and many remarks have been made about its performance. Joey is another in a long line of commentators. He has repeated the unsubstantiated remarks about corruption in the corporation and then proceeded to say that I, Donald Ramotar “…[am] not an anti-corruption fighter.”
For Joey’s information when the PPP/C took office then President Cheddi Jagan changed the nature of all state boards in our country. They became non-executive boards and not responsible for the day-to-day management of the business. Indeed the board is a policy-making board. It has only an oversight responsibility in relation to management.
However, being on the board brings a member into contact with many of Guysuco’s managers. Let me say that I believe that the vast majority of those people that I came into contact with are people of integrity and a hard-working and dedicated group. The local managers are very capable and all Guyanese should be proud of such a committed group. I must also add that I have worked with some of the best people I know on Guysuco’s Board.
I know that the corporation has been accused of having massive corruption, but I have not seen any evidence of the kind of corruption being spoken about.
Guysuco’s accounts are audited annually. The audits have been done by some of the top accounting firms in the country. At no time did any of those audits show massive corruption in the corporation.
I am afraid that such talk does not help the corporation.
One of the tools that Guysuco uses as a check to those contemplating corruption is its Internal Audit Department. This body constantly scrutinizes the operations and makes reports.
They have uncovered fraud from time to time, but nothing at the level that is being bandied around.
It is also nothing in relation to what we have seen happening with some of the commercial banks.
As to the state of the industry, let me say that in some estates we saw signs of neglect which the previous board of Guysuco dealt with, and corrective works have been done and are continuing.
Many of those problems have been uncovered due to the fact that the last board established an agricultural audit unit which picked up those issues and reported on them. This too is ongoing.
The present financial problems have nothing to do with corruption. They are due to a combination of factors.
In the first place they were caused by the large sums that Guysuco had to plough into the Skeldon expansion and the fact that it is still to come on stream. That has put strains on cash flow.
This project though, will come to fruition soon, and hopefully it will reach all of our expectations.
Added to this is the fall in the price of sugar from the main market in the European Union. In 2007 it was cut by 5%, in 2008 by 9% and this year the cut will be 36%.
The financial problems are also due to a fall in production caused by unfavourable weather conditions since 2005. The rainfall experience since then has caused a major reduction in opportunity days to carry out vital agricultural practices.
We must also admit that neglect took place at some estates that resulted in a fall in production.
In relation to paying the workers more, let me say I am always in favour of this. However, we have to deal with the question of affordability.
Having said that let me add that the unionized workers of Guysuco receive some 60% of its revenues as wages and salaries. This, I am sure you will agree, is not insignificant. I believe that no other company in Guyana is paying so much of its revenue in wages.
In conclusion let me say that I am very optimistic about Guysuco’s future; true, it is going through some difficulties, but it has the capacity to rebound. This is not the first time it has encountered problems.
I have faith in the ability of our workers to turn things around.