PPP ‘changes position’, supports private investment in closed sugar estates

PPP ‘changes position’, supports private investment in closed sugar estates

The Wales Estate

PPP ‘changes position’, supports private investment in closed sugar estates

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said yesterday that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has changed its approach and will support the privatization of four estates controlled by the National  Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).   

The PPP was vehemently against the closure of the estates, and instead, urged the coalition government to continue the financial bailout of the industry, which has been struggling for several years as market subsidies ended.

“We are going to continue battling. We believe, as we said before now, that the termination has been done. We were opposed to it; the closure of these estates, but we will push. In fact I’ve been telling people that we hope we can get decent private investments into these estates,” Jagdeo said at his press conference yesterday.

Government was intent on ending the huge cash bailouts to the state-owned Guyana Sugar Corporation, placing well over 4000 employees on the breadline. On December 31, 2017, GuySuCo transferred the assets of three estates – Skeldon and Rose Hall in East Berbice and Enmore in the East Demerara.

This was done to facilitate the pursuit of investment proposals. Closure of the estates has brought a change of heart from the opposition.

“This is a position that we have changed because we were saying no closure, but now that there is closure, there are no jobs so that we can get decent investments into this. We will look at the process clearly. If there is any underhand deal, I am making it clear, we will review those when we get back in government,” the Opposition Leader stated.

He said support for the investment plan is part of the party’s objective to create more jobs for people.

“We have no apology for doing this, knowing what this industry has done for this country for over 300 years. We have no apology to make for saving the sugar industry in the past,” Jagdeo pointed out.

He called for more money to be spent on training for sugar workers; the immediate issuance of land promised to sugar workers and more money to be available for small loans which will be made available to the retrenched workers.

Additionally, Jagdeo stated that the payment of severance must be calculated correctly, as several workers have complained of being short-changed.

He accused the David Granger-led administration of creating a bunch of lies and excuses regarding the payment of severance, in an effort to make Guyanese unsympathetic to the plight of the sugar workers.

Government is estimating that severance pay for redundant sugar workers will be in excess of $4B. By this month-end, half of the severance pay to about 4,000 workers will be ready. The rest will be paid by the second half of the year.

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