Mere two years after commissioning…US$200M Skeldon factory set for major overhaul
Just two years after launching the country’s most expensive project to date, the government yesterday announced plans to begin a major overhaul of the Skeldon factory.
The US$200M factory, on which Guyana has been pinning its hopes to revive a struggling industry which is the country’s biggest employer, has been plagued with problems.
These problems were there since the sugar factory was commissioned in August 2009, raising questions whether Guyana had received its value for money.
Government has been blaming the “hiccups” on teething problems with accusations that the Chinese contractor had failed to deliver. Even former President Bharrat Jagdeo had promised to “personally” intervene in a project that went wrong in the construction phase.
According to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) yesterday, it will now be gearing to re-engineer the bagasse feed system, re-design the cane conveyors, drill a new well and replace a five-megawatt alternator to a power engine.
These were all handed over and suppose to have been fully working within months of the August 2009 commissioning, plus or minus a few defects.
It will also be modifying the problematic punt dumpers, build a section of all-weather road, upgrade the drainage and water management system and convert additional lands for mechanized harvesting.
While the GuySuCo statement yesterday did not immediately say where the money will be coming from to carry out the “major rehabilitation” as the works were described, last week’s National Budget of $192.8B had earmarked a $4B allocation for the sugar industry.
It is unclear whether that $4B will be used to facilitate these works but Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, is yesterday quoted as telling the government’s NCN that GuySuCo faced a deficit of $2M last year. To meet the 265,000 tonnes of sugar target for this year, it is more than likely much more than the allotted $4B would be needed, NCN reported.
According to GuySuCo yesterday, in keeping with a plan approved by its Board of Directors, GuySuCo has begun to implement plans to undertake several major rehabilitation projects at Skeldon Estate during the upcoming out of crop period -June 2012 to August 2012- as part of its efforts to “turn the industry around”.
“Working wíth reputable international engineering experts and technical professionals in the area of diffusion technology together with agricultural specialists, GuySuCo identified the major factors that are preventing the estate from reaching its full potential and design capacity.
As such, it will undertake several major projects in both the factory and cultivation at Skeldon Estate,” the Corporation said in the statement.
GuySuCo disclosed that in an effort to enhance the cooperation and communication among the major stakeholders in the industry, it’s Board, management and the unions (GAWU and NAACIE) and workers’ representatives recently met and discussed a number of issues including bolstering production and the rehabilitation projects at Skeldon estate.
“GuySuCo anticipates that additional projects will be undertaken during 2013 resulting in a significant increase of production.”
The construction of the Skeldon factory was part of a modernisation plan by GuySuCo that involved expanded cane cultivations, the establishment of a refinery, and the co-generation of electricity for the national grid.
Guyana had lost the preferential prices offered by its biggest customer in Europe, losing around $10B annually in revenues.
In 2008, the sugar industry directly sustained some 18,000 jobs. Sugar exports account for as much as 20 percent of the country’s annual revenue. Therefore, the survival of the industry is seen as crucial to the country’s economic and social stability.
The new factory was intended to increase national production to more than 450,000 tonnes. It was to be the most modern sugar factory in the Caribbean.
The factory also uses bagasse (the waste of the sugar cane) as fuel part of the co-generation power section of the factory that would have provided most of the daily base load power requirement for Berbice.
The factory was constructed with a combination of self-generated funds and loans from the Caribbean Development Bank, the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Guyana. The Project Engineer was Booker Tate, UK Ltd and the Contractor was CNTIC Ltd, the Chinese company.
Government fired Booker Tate saying it failed to supervise the construction of the factory properly. Several millions of US dollars were reportedly withheld.
The Chinese contractor, CNTIC was supposed to fix several defects plaguing the factory and while some were fixed, many of them were still outstanding. That amount is unclear.
It is also unclear how many still have to be fixed as the defects liability period- the time in which the contractor has to fix problems- has already elapsed.
GuySuCo’s officials remained unavailable for comments yesterday.
Skeldon factory has been failing to meet its production targets since the commissioning two and a half years ago.
was this the payoff for Ralph Ramkarran to step aside to pave the way for Donald Ramotar(was also on the GuySuCo Board of Directors)? This is a wake up call for all those who thought Ramkarran was a stand up guy.
GuySuCo reneges on commitment to divulge fees paid to US lawyers
…conservative estimate pegs figure at $350M
One day after committing to provide this publication with the amount of money paid to overseas lawyers for the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Chief Executive Officer, Paul Bhim, has reneged.
Bhim on Tuesday told this publication that he would yesterday provide the amount of money paid but when contacted yesterday he was mum save only to say, “Let’s just say a fair amount.”
When pressed further, Bhim reiterated that he would only say that the amount paid to the overseas lawyers in the court case against Bedesse Imports Ltd is a “fair amount”, adding that he could divulge no more information.
In pointing out his hesitation to say anything further in relation to fees paid by the sugar entity, Bhim drew reference to an article that this publication carried in its Wednesday edition.
In that article it quoted Ralph Ramkarran, who is with the law firm Cameron and Shepherd that was hired to defend the matter, as saying that the fees paid to the overseas lawyers was a private matter.
Conservative estimates of the amount paid thus far for the lawyers in the court battle which is over two years old is some $350M. Confronted with this figure Bhim would only say, “I can only say it’s a fair amount.”
Ramkarran told media operatives during a press briefing at Freedom House on Tuesday that as attorney for the clients, which includes GuySuCo, he would need their permission to speak.
“As far as the fees for lawyers, that is an absurd question, that is people’s private business….it is GuySuCo’s private business.”
Ramkarran suggested that maybe a question should be formulated and posed in the National Assembly.
A spokesman in the local law firm of Cameron and Shepherd had told this publication that United States law firms do not operate like those in Guyana. Lawyers charge by the hour. The spokesman said that top lawyers charge US$1,500 per hour.
Foley Hoag and Company lawyers charge slightly less. Investigations have revealed that the lawyers on the GuySuCo case are charging about US$1,000 per hour. Two lawyers are working on the matter.
In the end, the cost could be very high but according to the spokesperson, this money could be recovered when the sugar company demands costs from Bedessee.
The issue began when GuySuCo decided to challenge a United States-based Guyanese man, Vernon Bedessee, over the use of the label Demerara Gold on sugar packages.
GuySuCo was already marketing a product, Demerara Gold, on the European market but the company discovered that Bedessee was marketing a product of the same name but instead of sugar made in Demerara, the product marketed by Bedessee was from Mauritius.
And Bedessee made it known on the label that his Demerara Gold was a product of Mauritius.
GuySuCo immediately challenged the apparent trademark infringement. Its Washington-based lawyers, Foley Hoag and Company, have already secured a qualified registration in the United States as part of the challenge to Bedessee’s apparent trademark infraction.
Following the discovery of the alleged breach, the Agriculture Minister made some statements critical of Bedessee’s action. These statements were published by the local media and reproduced in the overseas editions of some of the local newspapers. Immediately Bedessee sued for libel and slander.
DECEMBER 15, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
“Where are the 15,000 house-lots that he is speaking of if no money was allocated to develop the land that they paid GuySuCo $4B for?”– Ramjattan
Housing Minister Irfaan Ali is again being accused of blatantly lying to the nation in
relation to statements he made.
Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, told this publication that the 15,000 houselots that Ali is now talking about in relation to the $4B paid to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for land in Diamond, appears to be a figment of Ali’s imagination or a deliberate attempt to mislead Guyanese.
Following the brouhaha that erupted over the manner in which the money was transferred to the state-owned in late 2009, it was also found that no money was allocated for the development of the land that the Housing Ministry purportedly bought.
Ramjattan said that it is Ali’s dishonesty that had put him in trouble in the first place when he along with the Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, breached the Laws of Guyana to have the money secretly transferred to GuySuCo as a bailout.
This bailout, according to Ramjattan, was necessitated by the mismanagement of the industry by individuals including the newly sworn in Labour Minister, Dr Nanda Gopaul, as well as the current President, Donald Ramotar, who were, at the time, both Directors on the Board of the ailing sugar corporation.
Ramjattan insisted that neither he nor his party is arguing against the development of houselots for Guyanese. However, the Minister breached the rules when the money found its way from the nation’s coffers to GuySuCo without the requisite Parliamentary approval, he said.
The AFC official recalled that the money was paid over to GuySuCo long before the Parliamentary approval was sought for its use and this is the issue that he had raised in the National Assembly, sparking a furore on the part of the Minister.
Ali was at the time also accused of flagrantly “disrespecting and acting in contempt of the National Assembly” when he attempted to avoid being grilled on the matter.
The state-owned Guyana Chronicle yesterday reported the Housing Minister as asking “What is so wrong with creating more than 15,000 houselots for Guyanese?”
Ramjattan retorted, “Where are the 15,000 house-lots that he is speaking of if no money was allocated to develop the land that they paid GuySuCo $4B for?”
The AFC Chairman says that following the brouhaha surrounding the $4B and the Minister of Housing, the 2011 Budget was unveiled and it was revealed that there was no money allocated for the development of the land in Diamond, vindicating the position that the money was merely for a bailout of GuySuCo.
There were several subsequent Supplementary Provisions sought in the National Assembly with no money being identified for the development of the land that had been bought by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) with the $4B, through the aegis of the Housing Minister.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Sugar Corporation, Paul Bhim, when contacted yesterday by this publication said that he could only confirm that the negotiation between GuySuCo and CHPA for the $4B has been completed.
He said that he was not in a position to say just how much of the land owned by GuySuCo was sold to CHPA to the tune of $4B.
Bhim said, too, that he was also at the time not aware of any additional payments made to the sugar corporation for the land.
He did say that at least half of the money went to capital works for GuySuCo to purchase tractors but could not elaborate any further at the time.
Following the revelations surrounding the $4B and the Minister of Housing’s involvement, the then Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud had told the Parliamentary Economic Services Committee that the money was made as an upfront payment to the entity which at the time was still in negotiations with the CHPA as to the value of the land being sold.
As such, Persaud at the time was unable to tell the Committee exactly what was the value attached to the land at Diamond which GuySuCo was disposing of to the Housing Ministry.
The company at the time was said to be seeking some $37B for its canelands in Diamond which was being retired and disposed of (some 2000 hectares) with close to half committed to housing.
The remainder of the land was scheduled to be put up for sale through a public tender process which Persaud had said would ensure transparency whilst the state company sought to acquire as much as possible for the land.
There is absolutely no question in my mind that after more than 19 years of PPP rule and 10 years of elected dictatorship, Guyana has emerged as a failed state. When Mr. Jagdeo assumed power, he did not have a clue of how to govern the affairs of the country. The bequeathing power to him by Mrs. Jagan on that rainy morning was a tragic mistake.
No one can predict the future but maybe, the rain could be interpreted as if God was shedding tears for what was to happen to this beloved country.
Mr. Jagdeo’s horrible performance as president and his erratic and irrational “cuss down” outbursts are unbecoming of a president. He has embarrassed the presidency and the nation. It proved that Mrs. Jagan took a man’s job and handed it to a little boy.
His child-like behaviour is not only evident in his berserk “cuss down” episode last Sunday of Glenn Lall, Adam Harris and Kaieteur News but also when he said that Mr. Ramotar, at age 61, is a young man but that Mr. Granger at age 65 is a very old man. This is a very foolish and unbefitting statement coming from a president. It shows that he does not know what constitutes old or young.
Several senior members of the PPP are shocked and disgusted at Mr. Jagdeo’s behaviour. They are quietly exiting the PPP for a civilian life. Guyanese are concerned about the reckless behaviour and lack of morality of Government officials, the breakdown of law and order and the atrocities carried out by the PPP regime.
Mr. Jagdeo’s rigid control of the state apparatus, the state-owned television and radio stations, his delay in propagating the Information Act, his twisted way of cussing down people, his use of the PPP majority to make Parliament a farce, his trumped-up charges of treason against Mark Benschop and others, his refusal to have an inquiry into the extra-judicial murders of over 300 Guyanese, and the acquisition of highly paid propagandists like Prem Misir and the vanished Randy Persaud are similar to the actions of Hitler.
The regime has the entrenched and intrinsic belief in ethnic and racial superiority. It does not have a national policy based on racial equality, harmony, the co-existence of the races, and the fair and equitable distribution of the benefits of the state resources.
Instead, the elected dictatorship has a sinister and inept strategy to subjugate one race and render it servile.
Mr. Jagdeo has not shown any interest in promoting unity, harmony and equality among the races. He is more inclined to use the country’s resources as he sees fit, spend taxpayers’ money in a reckless manner, ignore corrupt practices by government officials and is yet to charge a major drug dealer.
Glenn Lall, owner of Kaieteur News, is correct when he said that “It’s is thiefing that going on from top to bottom in the country. I don’t believe in thiefing the ordinary man, taxpayers’ dollars.”
More reasons why Guyanese are worst off today than 10 years ago? We are in the 21st century and there are constant power outages nationwide, lack of adequate potable water, mothers and babies are dying at childbirth, truancy rates at schools are extremely high, PPP untouchables continue to disrespect the rule of law, taxpayers do not get value for money spent on public projects, 45 per cent of the youths are unemployed, Georgetown stinks, UG has
collapsed for lack of funds, public hospitals and schools have crumbled, the future of GUYSUCO is in doubt, wages have remained stagnant while cost of living has risen to the sky, and the roads are the worst they have been in years.
In addition, more than 80 per cent of the population lives in poverty while Pradovilles are popping up everywhere and PPP untouchables have coveted the best lands in the country. Guyanese are worst off today than ten years ago because the elected dictatorship governs the country like a cake shop.
If these are considered development, then we should find a new meaning for the word “development.”
And one more thing, Bharat, do not blame Glenn Lall, Adam Harris and Kaieteur News for the horrendous state Guyana is in. Unlike you and your cabal, they are decent citizens trying to make an honest living by working hard everyday.
Under the theme “Working for a Better Tomorrow”, the PPP/C Manifesto for the 2011 elections is a mix of distortions, mistruths and misrepresentations, wishful thinking or no thinking at all.
The two-page introduction, written by the Presidential candidate Mr. Donald Ramotar seems signally disconnected from the rest of the 43-page document.
Not content with the half-true contents of the Manifesto, Mr. Jagdeo, the PPP/C’s presidential candidate for the past two elections showed that he still does not believe that truth is a virtue. His capacity for inventiveness, make-belief and contempt for the intelligence of his audience guaranteed that he authored the most astounding lie of the Manifesto launch night when he told the audience that the PPP/C Government had only just paid off a US$300 million loan for the PNC’s failed Hydropower project!
Not only was it deception for the Manifesto to choose 1991 as its reference point when the PPP/C was in fact elected in the fourth quarter of 1992, but some of the selected information both then and now are fictitious and or fabricated.
GPL line loss was not 50% in 1991 nor is it less than 30% now (Page 13). GuySuCo does not produce 30 MW of bagasse power at Skeldon – a Wartsila diesel powered engine does –, and the current external debt is not “approximately US$800 million” – unless for the economist Mr. Ramotar and his economic team say that US$800 million and US$1,111 million are “approximately” the same!
The Manifesto boasts of the growth of the economy over the past nineteen years. It does not bother with the inconvenience that a substantial portion of the growth comes from the re-basing of the economy in 2009, an exercise which even a half-decent economist knows makes long-term comparisons meaningless.
Of course it would have been too honest to expect the Manifesto to tell us that the exchange rate of the US Dollar has sunk 65% since 1992; or that the domestic debt has climbed from $18 billion in 1992 to $103 billion at June 30, 2011; or that the cost of electricity was $12 compared with $54 per KW currently; or that greenheart was $85 per board metre compared with $350 now.
Jagdeo and now Ramotar repeat ad nauseum that 96% of revenues was consumed in servicing debt “when they took over”, and it is now four per cent. They should read the 1993 Budget Speech in which the first PPP/C Finance Minister Asgar Ally referred to “scheduled debt service obligation” and not actual debt servicing. And if they look at the 2010 revised figures, they will see that debt-servicing to revenue is not four per cent but 13.3%.
What is also striking is that Mr. Ramotar’s ‘vision’ for the next five years does not add a single new idea to the corruption-laden projects of Jagdeo’s last term. So we have:
1. the expensive and untested Chinese laptops that will run us into billions of dollars;
2. the Amaila hydropower project which will earn us the award for the most expensive hydropower in the world, guaranteeing that electricity rates will remain prohibitively high;
3. the tourism hospital which Jagdeo and his friend will import from India;
4. the Low Carbon Development Strategy that is neither low in carbon nor developmental in nature; and
5. the fibre-optic cable.
Ramotar shows a dangerously limited understanding of democracy and the Constitution when he promises local government elections within one year and “the strengthening of the local government ministry to oversee local government bodies.”
The man seems blissfully unaware that that is the purview of the constitutionally required Local Government Commission which his party in Government has refused to establish and that Article 79 requiring Parliament to provide criteria for allocating resources to the regions has not been given effect to.
Despite our border problems with Chavez’s Venezuela and Bouterse’s Suriname, or the imperative to resile from Jagdeo’s excursions with Kuwait, Libya and Iran, Ramotar does not think that Foreign Policy deserves a mention in 43 pages.
But he dreams that in five years he can transform an education system – known as much for a few exceptions like Ms. Dev as for its drop-outs and the creation of a functionally illiterate population – into one that is “world class and globally competitive.”
That race and race relations for the PPP are the imagination of a few aging malcontents is evident from the failure of the Manifesto to recognise those issues or to acknowledge the International Year for People of African Descent.
One wonders whether the leaders of the private sector in attendance including Clinton Williams, Norman McLean, Ramesh Dookhoo and others noticed that nowhere is the private sector or the manufacturing sector mentioned in the Manifesto. Good for them.
But Labour, too, got no mention and one is left to wonder for how much longer the Jagdeo-Nadir $800 per day minimum wage will drive the pay policy of the PPP/C. No mention of the depressed communities or efforts to stamp out corruption or to integrate the corrupt elements in the informal economy into the tax-paying formal economy.
Governance, too, is treated by omission. And for a man who was nurtured into the ideologically obsessed Marxist PPP, Mr. Ramotar’s Manifesto does not even mention the model of economic philosophy which his Administration will pursue.
Whoever wrote the section of the Manifesto on Information and Communication Technology (page 22) must have been smoking something. How in Edghill’s heaven’s name can Guyana produce 25,000 high-quality jobs over the next five years in computer engineering and software development? Perhaps we will import them from India or China as we will do for our tourism hospital.
Women who make up 51% of the population, Children, the Elderly and the Family get one page in the Manifesto at page 36 that includes a commitment to a comprehensive review of the NIS.
The PPP/C mismanagement of the NIS under the chairmanship of Dr. Roger Luncheon for the past nineteen years has placed the NIS at grave risk with outflows far exceeding inflows – three years earlier than the 2006 Seventh Actuarial Study had feared.
And youth who make up 46% of the voters share one page with Sports and Culture, although culture is noticeably missing in the plans for the next five years.
One can draw analogies from Alice in Wonderland or Aesop’s Fables but perhaps the most appropriate assessment of the PPP/C manifesto was offered by their own former Minister Dr. Henry Jeffrey who told the nation on Plain Talk last Sunday that he could not vote for the PPP/C on the basis of this Manifesto.
Guyana PPPC presidential Candidate Donald Ramotar is a proven failure before he leaves the starting blocks
Mr. Ramotar is a proven failure before he leaves the starting blocks
OCTOBER 16, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER LETTERS
Hopefully, the November 28 elections will bring an end to the scorching and scathing criticisms of the Caribbean’s most corrupt, vindictive, autocratic and lawless regime. In fact, I am looking forward to ending my two decades-long letter writing hobby, as I have already started scaling back on the frequency of my letters.
That said, I want to respond to the lead story in Kaieteur News on Monday, October 10, “Ramotar pledges to work with opposition if elected.” Mr. Ramotar reportedly said of the opposition, “As President of Guyana, I will take their views into consideration; I will seek consensus and try as far as possible to reach agreement with them. If we don’t meet agreement and consensus, they must recognize the people’s choice and (in) the final analysis, we will take our decision to move our country forward. We will need the help of every one of you; we will even work with the small set of people who might still be misguided to support the opposition.”
If we are to take him seriously, Editor, then we must judge his track record as the de facto leader of the PPP to determine what, if anything, he accomplished while working with the opposition. If he did not work with the opposition while being the de facto PPP leader, then we should rightfully doubt his vacuous pledge to do so if he becomes President!
Meanwhile, I still can’t get past the fact that he, as the de facto leader of the PPP, allowed the current President to openly render the PPP ineffective and become tainted by this exceedingly corrupt government. Does Mr. Ramotar know or even care that there is great apathy among the ranks of the PPP support base, the trucking and busing of thousands of ‘hired’ supporters to election rallies, notwithstanding?
I also still can’t get past the fact that he’d want to preside over a government where leadership skills are essential, yet he sat on the GuySuCo management board as the main representative of the ruling party, while the Jagdeo regime’s mismanagement of the corporations cost taxpayers and the treasury billions of dollars. If you can’t oversee a road side roti and cane juice stall, how can you expect to run a big department store?
Mr. Ramotar’s track record at the helm of the PPP and on the board of GuySuCo does not bode well for him as an effective hands-on
President or as a trusted pledge keeper. But is it possible that Mr. Ramotar, who seems to be more of an entitlement seeker than a game changer, is playing to a compliant audience by making rhetorical pledges he won’t keep?
With your kind permission, I want to share extracted portions of President Jagdeo’s remarks, on being sworn in as President on March 31, 2001, which should make us reflect on Mr. Ramotar’s remarks to the opposition. The President had publicly pledged to work with the political opposition in the aftermath of the infamous ‘slow fire-more fire’ violence and destruction that preceded the 2001 elections.
“…Elections 2001 is past. I want to assure my political opponents in those elections that we are not enemies. As President, I will strive my utmost to include everyone in the process of working to achieve common goals for the whole nation, and for making life for all Guyanese.
“…For too long – over generations, in fact – the bitter perception has developed that party connection and consideration come first in all aspects of administering this country. I will try hard, I promise you, to win the confidence of my opponents that this will not be so in my governance of Guyana. No doubt, winning trust in this regard will be gradual. But I declare today that I am determined to try to win that trust.
“…I can assure Guyana that the hand I reach out will be friendly and brotherly, and that in accepting it, the PNC Leadership need have no fear that they are doing so as anything other than as equal. I will shortly convene a “National conference” to discuss ways of taking Guyana forward in this country and millennium. This platform will be constructed within the context of the National Development Strategy and the programmes advanced by the various political parties. My vision is to create a country in which everyone has a sense of belonging and an opportunity to continue to its development.
“…I want to speed up the process of constitutional Reform and expand the role of the legislative arm of the government in the task of governance. However, inclusivity must not be restricted to the legislative arm of government. I hope that when I meet with the leader of the opposition we will discuss the matter further.
“…It is critical that we engage one another in dialogue. We should always reach out and talk to each other. In this way we would be really fulfilling the mandate of all Guyanese as we share our different views in the search for national consensus on the common objective of making this country a better place for all. Together we can work on issues and programmes that really matter to our people. There is so much we can achieve through genuine partnership.”
Editor, as we judge for ourselves we can see the disturbing difference between his flowery rhetoric of 2001 and the frightening reality of the ensuing 10 years. What’s even more frightening is that not only did Mr. Ramotar, who has never been accused of corruption, sit silently as the President went on a rampage breaking his promises and worse, but Mr. Ramotar literally validated the Jagdeo presidency.
Voters have to block this failed political dynamic of the PPP that allows its leaders to sit silently while its government engages in corrupt, vindictive, autocratic and lawless behaviours, simply because those leaders are on a political entitlement list waiting their turn to become president and don’t want to rock the boat or disturb the status quo. It’s time for Guyanese to take back their government from failed politics and failed politicians. Mr. Ramotar is a proven failure before he leaves the starting blocks!