Raj Singh does not have the qualifications or experience to address the problems of GuySuCo at this time

Dear Editor,

Our Minister of Finance recently declared that Mr Raj Singh currently acting Chairman of GuySuCo will not be receiving a $5 million monthly salary or even a $3 million monthly salary as stated in the media, but a $2.5 million salary. That ought to take care of the concerns of those who thought that he was going to get $3 million. Who exactly does Ashni Singh think he is fooling? Here again is total contempt for the opposition and the citizens of this country, and a betrayal of Dr Jagan.

First Minister Singh was careful not to list what the other costs of being an absentee Chairman of GuySuCo would add to the woes of this cash-strapped corporation. In fact he told us that Raj Singh would be the executive chairman, but clearly this is nonsense since he can’t be executive chairman of anything unless he is living here 365 days a year. Sugar operations just do not happen once a month; it is a 24 hours a day 356 days a year operation.

Secondly, he then tried to obscure the picture and confuse the public by bringing Mr Errol Hanoman into the frame by telling us that Raj Singh, who would functionally be an executive chairman but not resident here, will be earning the same as Hanoman who was a full-time chief executive of the corporation! At that time Minister Gopaul as he is now, was chairman, so was Dr Gopaul getting $2.5 million a month?  But for us to employ this part-time executive chairman at a cost of $2.5 million per month, Minister Singh was careful not to mention that since he is resident abroad, we would in fact incur huge expenses to bring him here monthly to chair GuySuCo’s meetings estimated by the opposition to be a total package of US$25,000 a month. This situation, I repeat, is a completely different situation in comparison to Errol Hanoman who was a highly respected former Finance Director of the corporation and who was working full time in the industry as CEO, not chairman, as Minister Singh wrongly stated at the press conference. In my previous letter I expressed my opinion that the current CEO Mr Bhim is way out of his depth in his present situation.

In view of the above let me say that Mr Singh is not worth this salary. His exposure in the sugar industry was as an industrial relations junior manager whose offices were not even situated in the same building as the other functioning directors/managers of the corporation.

Consequently since CEO Bhim’s comment was that “there was no cane in the fields,” I don’t know which one of GuySuCo’s current directors, especially this absentee chairman, has the competence to rectify the dire situation which the industry finds itself in today, and what workable plans will be formulated to mechanise the harvesting and increase the yield of cane in the fields. He said that President Ramotar had a plan to restructure the corporation, but none of us have seen it. I want to remind the public that Mr Ramotar was on the board of GuySuCo during all of the time when the corporation was being emasculated through political interference, so his plan could hardly be viable. And here we are again putting a person in as chairman whose only apparent qualification for the job is that he is a devout PPP activist overseas.

I would like to remind the public that the two corporations which have brought this nation to the brink of disaster through incompetence and corruption are GPL and GuySuCo. Both were slated by the Desmond Hoyte administration for privatisation, and just before the 1992 elections Dr Jagan torpedoed the privatisation talks by telling the public that if he won the 1992 elections, he would not be honouring any agreements made by Hoyte to privatise GuySuCo or GPL. And I want to quote Dr Jagan from his speech on May 26, 1995:  “I have been faithful to my promise of giving you a government that is fully accountable to its electorate, free from corruption and transparent in all its financial and business affairs and the upholding of all your rights and freedoms won through sacrifice.” I wonder what he would do were he here today to see what he has created.

Thirdly, this press briefing was conducted at Freedom House. Dr Ashni Singh is a member of a minority government which does not control parliament, nevertheless, the PPP has to understand, that they have formed a government of all the people and as such convening meetings outlining government’s positions at Freedom House is an insult to us and should stop. Paramountcy of the party is gone and the PPP must accept it and move on; there are several more appropriate places, GINA for example, where they can conduct these sorts of briefings.  The government of all the people cannot possibly convene a weekly press conference in the PPP headquarters where Dr Singh is speaking in his capacity as a minister of government.

Fourthly, I want to know from Dr Singh’s disclosures, why Raj Singh needs two homes? And in what country/s will these two homes be located?

Fifthly, I am concerned that he told the press conference that he does not want to speak about the other members of the board, he would only be addressing the Raj Singh issue. The media have reservations about the competence of the board since it is failing miserably even when this same Mr Raj Singh was its acting chairman during the disastrous first crop of 2013, so how can he, in a democracy, refuse to answer questions about the current board members and their competence?

Sixthly, he told the press that Raj Singh is eminently qualified, “has worked in sugar for a number of years at indeed senior levels” but neglects to tell them that he really worked in the Industrial Relations Department of GuySuCo in the late ’70s and early’80s as a junior manager under D P Sankar and has no experience of the running of the administrative, factory or field sections of the corporation. So the opposition is right: Raj Singh does not have the qualifications or experience to address the problems of the corporation at this time. The government should release the full CV of Mr Raj Singh; this is our industry which is in a morass of economic difficulties brought on by similar disastrous policy decisions over the past 10 years, and they are asking us to subsidise it with our taxes. We therefore have a right to know who this man is, and what his qualifications are.

Then seventhly, comes the strangest part of this press conference; Ashni Singh tells the media that he had minimal knowledge of the industry! It’s there in the Stabroek News of June 11th on page 12 captioned ‘GuySuCo executive chairman likely to earn 2.5 million a month.’  If the Minister of Finance has minimal knowledge of our largest and most important industry, how dare he ask us in his national budget to put up $5+ billion in 2012 and another $5+ billion in 2013 to bail out the industry through the budget from the perilous state it finds itself in, with all of these incompetent directors and managers.

Surely as Minister of Finance he would have had to find out in the most fundamental and comprehensive way what is going on in this industry before he decided to ask the taxpayers to take their money to bail out GuySuCo. There is much more, Editor, but space prohibits further examination of the matter. However, there was one statement by Ashni Singh which I would like to address: he told the media (I saw this on TV) at the same press briefing that the poor production in the first crop was due to rainfall and strikes. I don’t know where Minister Singh is living, but we had the driest first half year in a very long time in 2013, and as far as strikes are concerned, I want to remind him that in August 1977 to January 1978 the sugar industry went on a 135 day strike called by the PPP’s GAWU, but we still made 241,527 tonnes of sugar which was 74.4 per cent of the annual target.

As far as the copious amounts of information provided by GuySuCo to the 9th Parliament when Mr Robert Persaud came with the GuySuCo team to answer our questions, I, as a member and chairman of the committee was far from convinced that the corporation was pursuing a viable and realistic developmental plan, and in fact they refused to give us the 1998-2008 strategic plan. I believe that they said that they could not find it.

So in my opinion it is wholly unacceptable to spend this amount of money on a chairman who has no experience in cane cultivation, mechanisation or factories; disciplines which would be essential in order to warrant this huge salary in addition to travelling and accommodation expenses which I am advised, will in the end, add up to US$25,000 per month.
GuySuCo’s problems will inevitably continue.

Yours faithfully,
Tony Vieira

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