State Minister Joseph Harmon has said that the special purpose unit set up to spearhead the divestment and privatisation of certain GuySuCo assets will build on the preliminary work undertaken by consultant Wesley Kirton to identify potential investors, and conduct its operations transparently.
“This is going to be a very open and transparent process,” Harmon told Stabroek News last week.
He had announced then that Calvis London is the head of the unit. “You will be able to speak to the head of the unit. I have asked him to ensure that he keeps regular press briefings so that you have access to him and what he is doing and he has committed to that,” he added.
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 already approved by the National Assembly for it, he had said.
Harmon informed that with the establishment of the unit, Kirton’s role is no longer needed. This is because all negotiations and plans will be dealt with by the unit.
Kirton was authorised by government last year “to engage in discussions on its behalf with interested companies/parties regarding their possible interest in acquiring the Guyana Sugar Corporation in whole or in part, to facilitate the arrangement for negotiations between the govnerment and interested companies/ parties….”
But Harmon said that persons that had discussions with Kirton and those who would have made proposals would have to resubmit them to the unit, which would then see the process through.
“They would now have to resubmit to the committee. This is now the entity that is formed for this purpose and therefore everybody have to submit their proposals to the special purposes unit,” Harmon explained.
“Those were preliminary steps. There was no conclusion or conclusiveness of that process [led by Kirton]. That was to identify persons who were interested and to be able to weed out those who did not have the capacity. So these people will now come to the Special Purposes Unit and it will make it easier for them to access their viability so that Kirton’s job, it is finished. The special purposes unit will take charge and process these into finality,” he added, while pointing out that as for Kirton, “He has no further role.”
In May of this year, government announced plans to “scale down” GuySuCo to three estates with three factories that would produce sugar for domestic needs and foreign markets, while divesting the company’s remaining assets.
Reading from the ‘State Paper on the Future of the Sugar Industry,’ Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder had told the National Assembly that under the plan, GuySuCo would aim to produce 147,000 tonnes of sugar annually from the Albion-Rose Hall, Blairmont and Uitvlugt-Wales estates. He noted that the Enmore factory will be closed at the end of 2017 when all cane would be harvested and the East Coast estates would be earmarked for diversification.
Under the planned amalgamation of existing estates, which has already been set in motion, cane from Wales would be reassigned to the Uitvlugt factory. The Wales Estate was closed at the end of the crop in December 2016. Also, cultivation at the Albion and Rose Hall estates would be merged, but the Rose Hall factory would be closed at the end of this year. Some lands will be made available for diversification purposes.