Saying that he believes that the Skeldon Estate can sustain itself if some very important and necessary changes are made, Corriverton Mayor Krishnand Jaichand has called for the government to look at replacing the management of the factory instead of pursuing privatisation.
At a press conference last Thursday, Jaichand said he strongly believed that if a local management board was selected to manage the estate, then the Skeldon factory could become sustainable. “I have suggested to GuySuCo at two different forums that Skeldon Estate can sustain itself,” he said. “Have a local board. I’m absolutely sure there is people who are willing to serve on a local board for a stipend. Restructure the management, do value-added, look at a refinery, look at a distillery and a number of other issues. GPL [Guyana Power and Light Inc] paying their fair shares for the generation of electricity, that’s the Wartsila. With this, I believe Skeldon can sustain itself,” he added.
Jaichand also suggested that GuySuCo should consider allowing local management to export their own production of sugar and “find their own markets.” “If we look at these factors the chance of sustaining Skeldon can happen,” he added.
Jaichand then stressed that as the mayor, he is very concerned about employment in general within the township and the effect on employment if the privatisation of the estate comes to pass. “I know the government got in mind to either privatise or sell, but they have got employment of 2,200 persons and from that employment you have a spin off that triggers all the way into the market, the taxis, the hotels, the shops, the businesses,” he noted.
Jaichand, who is also the President of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, further related that the selling out of Skeldon Estate will take a toll on the citizens in the surrounding environs. He recalled, that “… when there was contraband time, there was cross border crime in Corriverton where people were stealing cows and horses from Guyana and taking it over to Suriname, so we have to look at all these aspects.”
He further added, “When you look at the fishing industry, where our fishermen now have to take all the catches into Suriname, looking at the sawmill industry, which is not doing good, [it] makes me concerned about our town in terms of how people will sustain themselves.”
Jaichand stated that while he understands that the government has a right to look at GuySuCo as a business that needs to make a profit, it should also take into consideration the “spin off” of the sugar industry as well as how the decisions taken will affect the sugar workers. “NIS [National Insurance Scheme], VAT [Value-Added Tax] is being paid back by the local businesses here. If you shut this down, what will happen?” he questioned.
He also questioned what would happen to the fields and the factory if Skeldon Estate is to be closed at the end of the year until a decision is made. “They will lose value. Which is why allow Skeldon to be independent, give it a chance, government still would have their input is just that you would have a [local] structure of management, you don’t want people in Georgetown to sit on a board and don’t know what’s happening, you need local people,” he stressed.