The people should be told the truth about what has happened in the sugar industry

Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to the missive written by Mr Tej Singh in the Guyana Chronicle of February 2, 2009, captioned ‘Production shortfall in the sugar industry is climate related.’ This statement is far from the truth and whichever clique is pushing this statement is misleading the Guyanese public. It is unfortunate that such an important issue as sugar is being used by some of us to mislead when there is serious work to be done.  Let me put Mr Singh’s fears to rest – sugar is “all awe thing,” and not within the exclusive purview of some, and all patriotic Guyanese want to see sugar recover.  Our constructive criticism is not aimed at bringing sugar down but building sugar. When sugar decides to call on the Treasury and it will, all taxpayers have to fund the call so it is our business to concern ourselves with sugar.

Tej is correct in saying that it is the “prescribed duty of the Government is to make certain policies and decisions,” but with rights comes responsibilities.  The government has a responsibility to explain to the population (possibly in parliament) what has occurred in sugar since 2005 and what they are doing about it, since sugar belongs to the people of Guyana, not the government.  The government is only the caretaker and should know it has a responsibility to tell the real owners the full story.  Up to today, the full truth about sugar is not out in the open and if Kaieteur News had not broken excerpts of the real story, these massive abnormalities in Guysuco would have been kept a secret and the end result would have been worse.

Errors were made in Guysuco after the 2005 floods and we are reaping the benefits of those errors.  Bad decisions have resulted in bad performance.  Should we have chosen an Indian builder over a Chinese builder for the Skeldon factory? Did we do adequate husbandry in the fields?  Did we adequately maintain our factories?  The truthful answer to these three basic questions will point to the source of our problems today, and from that we can formulate our solutions.

It is not too late to save Guysuco, but those in control at the corporation must engage the people with the full truth, weed out the negligence and waste, and more effectively manage the Chinese builders at Skeldon, and Guysuco will recover.  I have no evidence of corruption at Guysuco, but if it is a danger to the company then it must be minimised.  The new board owes it to the people of Guyana to drop the hatchet whenever necessary to preserve the good thing and wipe out the evil in the company.  If this is done, good will follow.

The recent importation of sugar from Guatemala makes very good economic sense at this point in time.  However, Mr Singh must appreciate that importing sugar into Guyana is perceived as a disgrace.  When Hoyte did it in the early ’90s it was perceived as a disgrace then, and under the Jagdeo administration in 2009 it remains so. Guyana should be able to supply the EU and American markets and still have enough for the home market. It is an effort in futility to argue otherwise. What is clear is that after the 2005 floods, Guysuco’s management was negligent in their agronomical practices, they were negligent about their factory maintenance programme, they did not work as a team with the Chinese at Skeldon, and they were negligent in their reports to the board.  The board on the other hand should have had intelligence gathered from their foot soldiers (the ordinary field and factory hands) on the state of affairs in the fields and factories.  The board should have taken action on that intelligence, because I am convinced that the sugar workers would have told GAWU what was going on.  The facts are the board did too little, too late.  This is a good lesson in the art of management – always appoint the best to the board (and the old Guysuco board had some of the best agricultural and strategic minds in Guyana – Dr Permaul, Donald Ramotar, Komal Chand), always empower the board to ask the hard questions and take the hard decisions since anything else is a disaster in waiting. Trying to micro-manage all and sundry will buttress those with egos but will certainly lead to the impoverishment of the masses.

I know the capability of men like Dr Gopaul and Mr Ramotar.  We must give them the mandate to act regardless of the consequences and believe me, Guysuco will turn around.  Any attempt at interference in their work will just have detrimental consequences.

Yours faithfully,
Sasenarine Singh

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