Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) Mr Errol Hanoman told the National Assembly’s Economic Services Committee (ESC) in January this year that the entity was saddled with a $77 billion debt and defaulting on all of its repayment obligations, while Chairman Clive Thomas said that given the debt it made no business sense to keep it going. That figure of $77 billion is nothing but an alternative to the truth; GuySuCo’s real debt is around $32 billion.
Who legally engaged with the international banks to lend the US$220 million to fund the Skeldon Sugar Modernisation Project (SSMP)? Did the final approval happen in the GuySuCo boardroom or did it happen in the Cabinet room of the Government of Guyana (GoG)?
That decision to legally bind the company to this debt was made by the Cabinet of Guyana under the then PPP government. So why are all of these debts for the SSMP in the books of GuySuCo and not on the national debt books? Proper government accounting will clearly advise that the government must take responsibility for these Skeldon factory debts and not GuySuCo. Therefore, all $30 billion of these SSMP related debts must be delinked from GuySuCo and incorporated into the National Debt.
Who owns GuySuCo? Who owns and controls the GRA, the NIS, the Lands & Survey Commission (GL&SC), MMA and GNCB? The GoG on behalf of the people controls all of these entities. Why then this great lethargy and reluctance from the Ministry of Finance to make a genuine attempt at cleaning up the balance sheet of GuySuCo? Saddling the balance sheet of GuySuCo with all these related party debts is just plain ridiculous. GuySuCo owes some $10 billion in debts to the GRA, the NIS, the GL&SC, the MMA and the GNCB, which is tantamount to one arm of the government owing another arm of the government. Who is the government really trying to fool? These debts must and should be liquidated and settled by the central government with immediate effect.
Some $5 billion of the workers’ contributions were misappropriated for a long time starting from the Raj Singh days, but is a standard practice in the industry today. PAYE, NIS contributions, pension contributions, SILWF loan repayments and union dues which were deducted from the pay of the workers by and large were diverted away from their intended purpose to fund core operations. So more than $5 billion of the workers’ money has been pumped into the day-to-day operations of GuySuCo as a loan taken from the workers. The workers’ unions GAWU and NACCIE should file a legal suit in the court demanding full reimbursement of these funds.
So in the final analysis, when any of the doubting Thomases open their mouths and shout that GuySuCo has a debt of $77 billion or more, the workers and the people at large must publicly reject these half-truths.