Dr. Harold Davis Jnr. has been appointed the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the ailing Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) and a new board of directors should be in place by the middle of next week, Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced yesterday.
He made the disclosure in response to a question on the future of GuySuCo at a post-Cabinet press briefing yesterday. Up until that point, it was unknown that the process had started to find a substantive CEO.
Davis was up until earlier this year GuySuCo’s Director of Agricultural Services. He was appointed sometime last week. He is replacing Paul Bhim, who had been appointed temporary CEO. Davis father, Harold Davis was a long-serving Chairman of GuySuCo.
Harmon told reporters that Davis was scheduled to begin work from yesterday. He disclosed that the consideration for a board for the entity is “well advanced” and by the end of the week or very early next week, “we will have the announcement of a board of directors for GuySuCo.”
The life of the last board came to an end on the last day of April and government was to have started the process to identify candidates to form a new one.
There was confusion in March after it was advertised that Colvin Heath-London, who heads the Special Purpose Unit (SPU) overseeing the divestment of some of GuySuCo’s assets, was the new Chairman of the GuySuCo Board. The directors were identified as Komal Singh, Verna Adrian, Fritz Mc Lean, Rosh Khan, George Jervis, Arianne McLean, Vishnu Panday, and Annette Arjoon.
However, Minister of Finance Winston Jordan later clarified that Professor Clive Thomas remained the board Chairman as Cabinet had deferred a decision on a replacement. Cabinet documents appointing Heath-London and a new board had been sent out without approval of the full Cabinet and the appointments were subsequently recalled. Meanwhile, Harmon said that the three estates which remain open are under the control of GuySuCo. He said the divestment process for the four other estates is taking some time because of the requirement that there to be a careful assessment of the value of the assets of each estate. “The fact that the estates were never independent entities by themselves, it will require, apart from an evaluation of these assets, it will require a separation of them from the whole,” he said, while explaining that deciding the demarcation of assets of each of those estates is the current focus.
Harmon reminded that PricewaterhouseCoopers was the company retained to do the valuation of the assets. “They have actually done a tremendous amount of work and my understanding is that by the end of September they will conclude with the valuation of those assets,” he noted.
According to Harmon, coming out of the work done already, there have been some advertisements in the newspapers with respect to expressions of interest, some of which are “very exciting.” He said that these were not only for the four estates up for divestment, but for the entire industry, including the three estates that remain under the control of GuySuCo.
Stressing on the large amount of interest the entity is generating, he said that government wants to ensure it takes its time “to get these things right.” He said that it is clear that in the divestment, there is going to be a transfer of significant land sales from the state sector to the private sector “and we want to ensure that it is done transparently; that there is some consultations with the persons who are likely to be affected by this.”
Emphasising the importance of valuing assets, Harmon made mention of issues facing those currently occupying lands at Corriverton, which were given to them by the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund. He explained that those occupying the land were not given titles. “I was saying to them that this is why we have to be very careful because if you were to just sell this estate as it were, all of those persons who have been living there but to whom titles were not given by Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Fund will find themselves dispossessed…You cannot be too careful when you are dealing with land,” he added.
He expressed hope that those who are interested in purchasing the assets of the estate will understand that “we need to be very careful because we are not just dealing with land…we are dealing with land on which human beings live, on which there was economic activity taking place and so we have to be very careful.”