A sugarcane field at Enmore
Just weeks after they were shuttered, the Skeldon and Enmore estates will be reopened by the end of March and some cane cutters re-employed to demonstrate to potential buyers that the estates are viable and as such can be sold as going concerns, sources say.
“They are looking at the Skeldon and Enmore estates where it will be reopened so that the canes that are there now can be utilised and show potential buyers that these are all working estates with assets… they will be sold as going concerns,” one source close to the industry told Stabroek News.
The source explained that there is currently over 300,000 tonnes of sugar cane in the fields of the Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore estates and it was government’s Special Purpose Unit (SPU) which proposed that the estates be reopened to utilise the cane.
It is the SPU that will be now responsible for overseeing the management of the estates but it is unclear how the project would be executed.
Sources say that not all of the workers from the two soon-to-be reopened estates would be re-employed since only “about half of the capacity” was needed for the scaled-down production.
Contracted by the Special Purpose Unit of NICIL, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) began its work here last month in valuing the assets of GuySuCo which would lead to the issuing of prospectuses that potential investors can mull.
Head of the SPU, Colvin Heath London has said that, “the work of PwC, given their vast experience in this type of process, will help all decision makers to arrive at the best decisions for the assets of GuySuCo, for other businesses that are in the GuySuCo supply chain, and most importantly for the workers who are uncertain about their future.”
According to him, PwC will be entrusted with ensuring a level playing field for all interested parties and stakeholders as the process goes forward.
PwC Caribbean Partner, Wilfred B Baghaloo, told the press that the firm was looking forward to the opportunity to work with the government and people of Guyana as they aim to “find a practical economic solution to the privatisation of the three sugar estates on a timely basis. This is indeed a challenging task but we believe that we are equipped with the necessary experience and skills set to ensure a successful project.”
PwC’s work on the GuySuCo project is expected to last eight months.
Government last year announced that the Skeldon, Rose Hall and Enmore estates would be closed and by year end over 4,000 GuySuCo workers were given redundancy letters followed by the subsequent estate closures.
But since November of 2017, GuySuCo began moving machines and equipment from estates billed to be sold or privatised to others that are functional, a move that saw tensions between them and government holding company NICIL as both sides claimed they controlled the assets.
Machines were moved from Skeldon and Rose Hall to Enmore with then Chief Executive Officer of GuySuCo, Errol Hanoman saying that the machines were relocated to maximise use since there was no cane where they were and as such no use for them.
It is unclear what GuySuCo had anticipated doing with the now 300 thousand plus tonnes of cane. Calls to acting GuySuCo CEO Paul Bhim were not answered and efforts to contact company Chairman Dr Clive Thomas proved futile.
The government had been strongly criticised for allowing the severing of the over 4,000 GuySuCo workers without having options in place for them or evaluating the social impact of the job losses on their communities. It had also been pilloried on its unpreparedness to pay severance immediately to all the workers. Of the 4,763 severed workers, 1,851 are from the Skeldon Estate, 1,181 from Rose Hall, 1,480 from the East Demerara Estate and 251 from Wales.
Public criticisms mounted when the severed workers were told by government that they would be getting their severance payments in two tranches; the first beginning last month and the second by year end as they could not afford to pay all the monies at one time.
Last month some $1.93B was approved by the National Assembly and Minister of Finance Winston Jordan said that sum would facilitate full severance by the end of January for a little more than 1,600 of the total who are entitled to severance payouts of $500,000 or less. The other workers will receive 50% and from an additional $2 billion set to be paid by December 31st, the others would get theirs.