Once again the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) feels compelled to respond to another of Mr Donald Ramotar’s letters. Mr Ramotar’s most recent letter that focused on GuySuCo and was published in the Stabroek News dated May 28, has been received with great disappointment (‘With sound investments sugar could become a profitable industry’). The disappointment is due to the fact that Mr Ramotar seems to have now joined the company of naysayers who are out to paint GuySuCo and the efforts of the new Board of Directors and management in a negative light. What is even more disappointing is that Mr Ramotar has resorted to using his profile and position of influence to deliberately mislead and manipulate the minds of persons who might be vulnerable to his writings.
The truth of the matter is that GuySuCo is challenged, and that might be an understatement; the corporation is much challenged, and in order to come to any intelligent conclusion about the prospects of GuySuCo, one has to examine how the corporation got to this stage, and how it was governed and managed in the past as against how it is currently governed and managed. This is necessary in order to sensibly determine the way forward and to ensure that some of the mistakes are not repeated. An honest examination of the shortcomings in the type of governance and management which resulted in the GuySuCo we have today is important.
GuySuCo did not become a loss-making corporation overnight; it went through a gradual process of deterioration of systems and structures, which included poor leadership and management. This resulted in a corporation which was practically bankrupt with demoralized management and staff and unstable targets, hence, a lack of confidence on the part of suppliers, customers and the wider public in the corporation.
The new Board and management are trying to salvage a corporation and industry that has undergone a systematic process of decay. The new leadership has inherited a GuySuCo where critical departments were marginalized due to the lack of appreciation for their critical role to the viability and sustainability of the corporation and the sugar industry as a whole.
The new Board and management are responding to the urgency that presented itself, and redirecting the course of the corporation and the sugar industry for its own survival and that of its employees and other stakeholders.
Mr Ramotar stated in his letter: “They seem hell bent on closing down the sugar industry. At the moment, they are dismissing highly qualified technical personnel and replacing them with pensioners. These people are being paid huge salaries. Recently, they employed nine persons who are earning more than $200M per year”. He further noted that “the regime seems intent on running the sugar industry down and enriching their friends at the expense of GuySuCo and Guyana.”
The corporation is saddened by these statements and at the same time we are incensed that Mr Ramotar would reduce our qualified and competent employees and consultants to mere pensioners.
These pensioners of whom Mr Ramotar speaks are highly qualified and experienced Guyanese who are making tireless contributions to reviving the corporation and the sugar industry. Some of these persons have been assigned full-time employment while others have been recruited in a consulting capacity. The alternative would have been to recruit expatriates, who would have cost the industry significantly more.
We also find Mr Ramotar to be contradicting himself and deliberately mixing up issues, not necessarily out of care for the growth and development of GuySuCo but for other reasons more of a political nature. In an earlier statement, he stated: “…the APNU+AFC regime is determined to close the sugar industry. Their actions thus far have clearly indicated this position”. He further said that, “this will be one of the biggest mistakes in the economic history of our country”. Therein lies a fundamental problem with GuySuCo and the sugar industry: confusing our business with politics. As we move forward in striving to make GuySuCo a resilient business, all stakeholders in the interest of the sustainability of the corporation have to be strategic and rational enough to separate the business from politics; this is a key behavioural shift that is essential for the survival of the industry, otherwise we will continue to shoot ourselves in the foot.
Another flaw in Mr Ramotar’s argument about bringing back eminently qualified persons to lead the transition process is why would the corporation recruit the best expertise, skills and resources, if the intention is to close the industry? To the rational, intelligent mind, it makes absolutely no sense to muster a cadre of the best minds in the sugar industry, merely to run the industry down and enrich friends, as Mr Ramotar claims.
Further, Mr Ramotar stated that “while it is true that the industry is experiencing some difficult times, the main reason for these difficulties lies beyond our control since it was the decision of the European Union (EU) to end its agreement with the sugar-producing African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) [countries]. While this might be a fact, Mr Ramotar is still in the diagnostic mode, for the current Board and management of GuySuCo have gone past that stage, The corporation is at a stage where, having diagnosed what the problems facing the industry are, it is now prescribing and implementing solutions. The leadership is taking responsibility for the future of the corporation and sugar industry and is engaging the relevant resources to find its own solutions to problems. Hence, the thrust is to develop a resilient GuySuCo that will withstand the changes in the world around, changes which might be beyond its control. It is therefore logical that there is an even greater need to find and recruit the best expertise.
This notwithstanding, the corporation considers Mr Ramotar a very useful player in the new emerging GuySuCo and sugar industry. However, his value would be better maximized, if there were less emotional involvement, more objectivity and an honest reflection on and understanding of the depth of the issues facing the industry, in addition to a rational position on possibilities for the future of the industry.
Finally, it is important to note that the total cost paid to the persons mentioned in Mr Ramotar’s letter is far less than the $200M per annum that was stated. The corporation also wishes to state that while Mr Ramotar is at liberty to discuss his views on the packages of persons in our employ in the public domain, it is against civilized practice for an organization like GuySuCo to engage in such conversations in such a casual manner.
Senior Communications Officer