Cash-strapped GuySuCo to sell land to CH&PA

- Harmon

Facing a cash crunch, the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) will be selling land to the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced yesterday, while noting that the corporation has sought a bailout to the tune of $2 billion.

Minister within the Ministry of Finance Jaipaul Sharma will be spearheading the finalisation of the sale, Harmon told a post-Cabinet press briefing.

Harmon said Cabinet recently considered a report the minister submitted on GuySuCo’s financial state. “Cabinet considered the report and authorised the minister to assist the management of GuySuCo with their ongoing discussions with [CH&PA] to urgently finalise the sale of lands and to facilitate payment for such lands to GuySuCo,” he said. “So, in fact, what will happen is that these lands will now come under the Central Planning and Housing Authority and will be available to the Guyanese public,” he added.

Harmon called the sale an emergency intervention but noted that selling land was always a part of GuySuCo’s diversification plans.

He could not give specifics on where the lands to be sold are located or the amount. “Those are matters which are within the discussions of GuySuCo and Central Housing and Planning Authority. What I can say to you is that the $2 billion will be made available,” he said.

On Monday, Chairman of GuySuCo’s Board of Directors Clive Thomas and Chief Executive Officer Errol Hanoman met with Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, who is performing the functions of President,  and Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder to discuss the company’s urgent need for a flow of cash to pay workers and honour other financial commitments.

 

A statement from the company had said that it was agreed at the meeting that as a matter of urgency, a presentation would be made at the Cabinet meeting scheduled for the following day.

Further, the meeting agreed on steps to be taken to ensure that employees are paid for services provided to the Corporation over the past week.

The Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer were told that the matter is being given the utmost consideration by the Government and the company said it would wait on the outcome of the Cabinet the following day.

The Chairman, the statement added, assured employees, their families and communities that every effort will be made to resolve this matter very shortly.

Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder had told the National Assembly in May that under the plan to scale down the company to keep it alive, GuySuCo will have three factories and five cultivating sites.

The three factories are Albion/Rose Hall, Blairmont and Uitvlugt/ Wales. This formula sees the amalgamation of Albion and Rose Hall and Uitvlugt and Wales. Enmore would be closed at the end of the year.

Additionally, Holder had said that while the corporation would retain as many workers as needed, employees would be leased land to engage in crop cultivation which would be decided by the corporation and the Ministry of Agriculture.

Special purpose unit

A special purpose unit has since been established in the National Industrial and Commercial Invest-ments Limited (NICIL) to spearhead the divestment/privatisation of certain assets of GuySuCo. Parliament has already approved $130 million to finance its operations for the rest of the year.

Harmon said yesterday that Calvis London is the head of the unit and he will be hosting a press conference in the coming weeks. London’s office, he said, is located at the NICIL headquarters in Kingston.

Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had explained to the National Assembly in early July that the unit’s principal function in its early stages would be leading the privatisation process for the Skeldon Estate factory. However, its functions will eventually go beyond GuySuCo and its budget next year will be far larger than $130 million, he had said.

He had noted that currently the unit is tasked with hiring an established accounting firm to undertake preparation for privatisation.

“They will also be involved in valuation, preparing prospectus, requests for proposals and other documents, marketing, advertising, developing legal framework etc,” the minister had told the House, sitting in the Committee of Supply.

He had said that the amount being requested includes approximately $30 million for employment, $60 million for professional and legal fees, $20 million for motor vehicle and furniture, while the additional sums will cover other operating expenses.

He had stressed that the functions of the unit will extend only to implementing decisions made by GuySuCo in relation to asset divestment.

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