In 2004 Guyana produced 325,000 tonnes of sugar. At that time Booker Tate was running our industry on a management contract, then Robert Persaud became Minister of Agriculture in 2006 and shortly thereafter he terminated the Booker Tate contract in 2009. He gave as his reason “they were too expensive” but as a result of this action by 2013 the industry was producing only 186,643 tonnes! In 10 years our industry’s production dropped by 58%! Thanks, Lambada! Now it is a fact that money which was supposed to go for the maintenance of the industry’s other assets was gobbled up by the Skeldon modernization project, which started some time in 2003/4, so the total collapse of the industry can be blamed on two facts: 1. Robert Persaud not comprehending the incompetence of the local GuySuCo managers or the importance of the Booker Tate management team to the industry and his own limitations to make these important determinations and 2. The very expensive Skeldon project. Since it not only cost a lot to build it ($150 Million US) but it gobbled up a lot of money which GuySuCo was forced to give it, but which was badly needed to finance important upgrading and maintenance to other important infrastructure of the industry. So the Skeldon project had, not a ripple effect but more of a tsunami effect on the rest of the Guyana sugar industry, and so its cost in real terms, was very much more than just 150 million US dollars.
In today’s context, as irrelevant as this may seem to a causal onlooker, what I am stating here is that in 1989 it became clear to Mr. Hoyte and Dr. Kenneth King, that our local managers were not up to the task of running the Guyana Sugar Corporation, since the output had been steadily declining from 321,000 tonnes in 1972 to 131,000 in 1990; so they hired Booker Tate to operate it on a Management contract. By 1999 Booker Tate turned the industry around and produced 321,000 tonnes of sugar in that year. Editor they took a rundown cultivation producing 131,000 tonnes in 1990 and made 321,000 tonnes in nine years.
It is very sad when a country doesn’t learn anything from its own history. And any country which disregards its own history, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, has no future. There is no we or them situation in this matter, all sides are involved in GuySuCo’s demise, and I want to state again that GAWU was part of the process of killing the golden goose with these wild cat strikes and unreasonable demands motivated mostly by politics. So the workers must also take some of the blame. Poor governance caused this and no one side is to blame, both have to take the responsibility.
We are making exactly the same mistake again, but in a much more lucrative situation for this nation’s survival. We need to hire a management team of highly qualified people in the petroleum industry on a management contract, [which will be structured on if we make money they make money, if we make more they make more] to manage our oil industry. We need to do it NOW. We also need to seek a competent management team to manage GuySuCo.