Sugar probe team to visit Skeldon factory today

After meeting for the first time yesterday at the Agriculture Ministry, four members of the Commis-sion of Inquiry (COI) into the sugar industry will make their first visit to the crisis-ridden Skeldon factory today.

Chairman of the Com-mission, Vibert Parvatan told Stabroek News yesterday that John Dow and Joseph Alfred who have specialised in factory operations along with George James who is well-versed in sugar processing will head to Skeldon today. Parvatan noted that agronomist James Piggott will also attend the factory visit as he asked to go along.

Vibert Parvatan
Vibert Parvatan

Parvatan said that the COI will focus on four areas: the state of the fields, the factories, human resources and marketing. He noted that economist Dr Clive Thomas, who has written extensively on the state of sugar in Guyana past and present will focus intensively on the business and financial aspect of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and the industry. Parvatan noted that Thomas will work closely with Director of Finance of the Interim Management Committee of GuySuCo, Paul Bhim to ensure that all data collected is accurate.

He said that while there would be a focus on the four areas, the idea was to have the work intertwined and have all members of the commission be active participants in the other three areas where their expertise will add balance.

The Chairman told this newspaper that for now the COI is working on how to complete its work in just 70 days, noting that tentatively members will meet twice a week to discuss the data collected.

He said that so far there are over 54 reports on sugar at the Agriculture Ministry that need to be reviewed. A list was submitted to the COI members for them to assess which reports would be appropriate to their work. “The whole thing has to be consolidated,” he noted.

Parvatan said that the commission would need to access internal reports from GuySuCo, noting that Bhim was made aware of this and has been accommodating. “We need much of their internal reports, production reports of the fields and the factories,” the Chairman told Stabroek News.

He said that he was even working on retrieving reports and data from the Inter-American Develop-ment Bank, pointing out that the bank had participated in studies of the corporation in years past.

The Chairman could not comment on the budget for the COI noting that this was at the ministry level and that he was not made aware as yet of how much it would cost.

He did state that so far the commission has a list of persons it will meet in the coming weeks who have expertise and experience in the sugar industry. He said that the COI is looking to possibly engage Dr Ian McDonald, who spent years as GuySuCo’s Director of Marketing. Parvatan also said that local experts such as Tony Vieira and Lance Tyrell will be invited to present during the COI.

Other names that are being floated included Vishnu Panday, a former Skeldon field manager, and Professor Vishnu Persaud, an overseas-based agricultural economist among others.

Parvatan said that the commission would still need to decide who would be presenting to the members and invitations would need to be sent out. Nothing was set in stone as yet.

He said that while the inquiry will be closed to the public for now this may change as there has been an influx of past employees and overseas-based persons who have shown interest along with the sugar unions in presenting their views on the sugar industry.

The Chairman told Stabroek News that the meeting yesterday included all members of the COI, except for agronomist Dr Harold Davis.

The other members of the COI include Nowrang Persaud, a specialist in industrial relations, Claude Housty specialising in marketing, GAWU representative Seepaul Narine, and Omadatt Chandan who will serve as the Commission’s Secretary.

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