Unit for sugar privatisation to be fully functional in January – official

The Special Purposes Unit set up to spearhead the divestment and privatisation of certain GuySuCo assets will be fully functional by January 2018, a government official says.

“They are expected to begin working in January (2018). As you know the head has already been selected and they are in the process of recruiting other staff,” the official, who asked not to be named told Staboek News.

With its office located and operated from GuySuCo’s La Bonne Intention (LBI), East Coast Demerara, office, the unit will have fifteen members.

The official asked this newspaper to contact Head of the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL), Horace James, for “an up-to-date rundown of where things are at this moment,” but calls to James were not immediately answered.

Guyanese-born Colvin Heath-London will be the head of the Unit, Minister of State Joseph Harmon had informed, while assuring that the Unit will conduct its operations transparently.

Colvin Heath-London

“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,” Harmon said.

The Ministry had advertised both locally and regionally for the head of the Unit and its staff.

Harmon said that the Head was selected from a process conducted by the Ministry of Finance and NICIL.

This newspaper understands that Heath-London is not in the country as yet but is expected sometime later this month.

The Unit head comes with a wealth of experience in project management and has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, with a minor in Negotiation/ Influence from the Edinburgh Business School, in the United Kingdom and Project Management Professional (PMP) certification from the United States’ Project Management Institute.

The 47-year-old last worked with China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) in Jamaica as the Group Investment Manager for the Americas.  CHEC is the contractor for the Cheddi Jagan International Airport expansion project.

He lists among his other work experience, Senior Project Manager for USAID/ PADCOAECOM in Jamaica, Director for Multi Project Planning and Implementation Limited, also of Jamaica, Operations Director for VERITAS Consultants of The Bahamas and Programme Manager for Radiotronica/Digicel.

Minister of Finance Winston Jordan had explained to the National Assembly, in early July of this year, 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.

Questions have been raised as to why the Guyana Office for Investment isn’t doing the work that Heath-London has been hired for.

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.

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