It was announced on June 26 that Vibert Parvatan, formerly CEO of Fogarty Ltd has been appointed Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry (COI) to examine the affairs of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Guyana’s largest industry. This is to determine its way forward, since the corporation is not just at the crossroads, but is heavily indebted, and has been in a downward spiral for some time now with no chance of survival except with a continued subsidy from taxpayers that cannot continue indefinitely without serious adverse effects on the country’s economy.
Mr Parvatan has had an unblemished record of honesty and integrity and has been involved in promoting many social programmes to help the needy. He was also an accomplished guitarist. However, he lacks the experience and strategic clarity to lead a COI to ascertain what really ails GuySuCo and what should be done to revive its assets to make it a viable industry. In his early life Mr Parvatan was employed as a Social Welfare Officer with Bookers Sugar Estates after he had received relevant training in England. Subsequently he was appointed a Junior Minister of Agriculture in the PNC Government and later became CEO of Fogarty Stores Ltd on Water Street. During his tenure at Fogarty’s, the store went into decline. Therefore Guyanese would need to know what experience Mr Parvatan has that motivated Minister Holder to appoint him to lead a COI team to provide answers necessary to turn around GuySuCo.
The FOB price of sugar on the world market has been hovering around US$0.013/lb for some time now while its costs of production by GuySuCo has been more than US$0.028/lb. Therefore there is no conceivable way GuySuCo could ever service its debt, trim its
production costs and remain viable to compete on the world market with Brazil, India and others unless it could find the various skills lacking and large capital investments to bring about needed efficiencies to accomplish the competitive threshold of production. This, of course, would be a pipe dream as the development banks will find it difficult to make investments in an industry which has no chance of becoming viable.
The APNU+AFC should therefore re-examine the seriously skewed terms of reference which Minister Holder has charted for the COI as a mean of making GuySuCo economically sustainable and viable, unless they are politically motivated to buy time until the next general election.
GuySuCo cannot be resurrected and therefore the future viability of sugar production in Guyana is dead. Hence the COI should be recommending means and methods to wind down the industry with as little pain as is possible, and where and how the available assets should be deployed to grow the economy to provide the paying jobs (not the back-breaking ones) Guyanese in the sugar-belt have been dreaming about.
Development plans are usually prepared for 5-year periods and not 15 years, since not even the APNU+AFC could project with any meaningful level of certainty whether they will retain political power beyond their present mandate, much less make projections for the survival of GuySuCo in 15 years’ time.