I am astounded by the fact that this government can peddle inaccurate information without verifying the truthfulness of a statement which appeared in the press to the effect that the European Union disbursed $348.5 billion as financial assistance to the sugar industry in Guyana. What is most disturbing is the fact that the Minister of State made an open statement in the press that the previous government did indeed collect such a humongous sum.
Moreover, when this government was in the opposition they were privy to all such information via the Economic Services Committee. In addition, numerous debates were held in connection with the subsidy to GuySuCo. They should have known exactly what the true figures were. But it seems that whatever political mileage can be gained for however brief a period it is worthwhile to have a go at it, regardless if the Guyanese populace is misinformed.
I have been doing some research on the internet trying to figure out the correct amount of financial assistance given under the Accompanying Measures to Sugar Protocol countries and found this article entitled ‘International Co-operation and Development’ in which it is stated that between the period 2007-2013 Guyana received €143 million which amounts to $33.8 billion.
Furthermore, in that same article it was stated that the sugar industry showed signs of recovery after the injection of that amount by the PPP/C government. They also gave subsidies amounting to $28 billion. This government has given a subsidy of $32 billion and has received around $10 billion from the EU in two years and the industry, especially Skeldon, is falling apart and Wales is closed. This is a spark of genius coming from a ‘competent’ CEO and his team of experts from the IMC. And of course without any political interference.
It must be noted also that the Skeldon Expansion project was in keeping with the EU’s National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) which outlined five strategies, one of which was the expansion of the sugar industry. The Skeldon Project would have addressed two other strategies: to improve the sugar industry’s competitiveness and electricity generation. It must be recalled that other value-added activities were also promoted such as ethanol and packaging. It was a movement in the right direction.
However, this government has made an about turn and is mainly looking at diversification away from sugar and privatization, as well as ‘right-sizing’ the industry. Unfortunately, it has so far failed to provide support for the livelihoods of those affected by the sugar sector reform it wants to implement (another NAS stipulation). Moreover, The White Paper is indeed ‘white’ since it does not say much about anything and far less about the livelihoods of workers. Workers simply do not have the finance and know how to be involved in any type of agricultural production. But they are expendables in the current scheme of things.
This government had said that sugar is too big to fail, but by shrinking it gradually they are hoping that no one will complain when it eventually fails.