PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee
PPP General Secretary, Clement Rohee

guyana chronicle January 25, 2016

 THE Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) has evaded questions regarding the collapse of the sugar industry during its time in office, including the closure of two East Demerara estates.In fact, Rohee suggested on Monday that he was not going to lump the closure of the LBI and Diamond estates under the Jagdeo presidency with the current government’s decision to close the Wales estate at the end of this year’s crop.

“The media is seeking to make a comparative analysis of two different situations under two different circumstances,” Rohee answered when questioned by reporters at Freedom House, the PPP’s Robb Street, Georgetown headquarters.

Apart from the closure of the two estates, the US$200 million Skeldon sugar estate -– the most expensive public project in Guyana’s history – has never fulfilled its role of saving the industry under the PPP.

The PPP continues to call for a reversal of the decision to close Wales, with Rohee arguing that a Commission of Inquiry, into the sugar industry — which it shunned — did not recommend closure of any estate.

“The President gave no indication about his administration’s plans for the sugar industry, neither did he comment on the recommendations from the CoI.
Granger delivered his address a mere four days before the announcement to close the Wales sugar estate,” Rohee contended.

“Closure of Wales sugar estate will have a deleterious social, psychological and economic impact on the people and their livelihoods in that community,” Rohee further argued.

State Minister Joseph Harmon recently told reporters that the Wales estate was an “economic nightmare”, and its closure was the best option.

Agriculture Minister Noel Holder has said it would cost taxpayers an average of $2 billion to keep the estate up and running.

Government has said that the Wales estate is projected to make a loss of between G$1.6 billion and $1.9 billion in 2016; and this, coupled with the extent of refurbishment it needs, has rendered the estate prohibitively costly to maintain.

Additionally, government has said that Wales is by far the estate in the poorest shape, with 60% of its drainage and irrigation infrastructure dilapidated; 75% of the bridges are in poor shape; the cultivation is also in poor condition, and the factory is old and in need of major investment.

The Ministry of Agriculture has also acknowledged that the investment required to refurbish Wales Estate is significant, and the finances are regrettably not available to undertake that task.

The MoA has noted that diverting funds from the other estates to keep Wales afloat would seriously jeopardise the future of those estates, and has said that that situation cannot be allowed to happen.

“The truth is that it is impossible to make sugar production at Wales viable. This is worsened by the unfavourable outlook for sugar prices on the world market for the foreseeable future,” Director of Public Information, Imran Khan, wrote in an OP-ED article in this newspaper earlier this week.

By Navendra Seoraj