Government has pumped some Four Billion Dollars in support of the sugar industry in an effort to meet its investment requirements thus transforming it into a viable and competitive industry.

The announcement was made on Friday by Finance Minister Dr. Ashni Singh while presenting the 2012 National Budget in the National Assembly.

“The production and financial turnaround that is expected to be aided with this support from government and other initiatives taken by the industry will ultimately rebound to the benefit of the industry's 18,000 workers and their families along with the industry's suppliers of goods and services bringing the total number of beneficiaries to 12,000 persons” Dr. Singh said.

The Finance Minister notes that the sugar industry has the potential to achieve and sustain maximum efficiency,“Management has outlined additional efforts to improve the domestic conditions for production and the financial performance. With the increased mechanism of the Skeldon estate the beginning of 2012 has seen only about 20% dependency on complete manual harvesting and the mechanization effort is set to expand further to other estates later this year”.

The industry in recent years has been under serious financial pressure particularly because of industrial unrest, unfavorable weather conditions, the need for greater managerial efficiency coupled with the devastating financial impact of the changes in the European sugar regime. Government says it intends to foster good industrial relations with the workers since this is a pre-requisite to achieving targets set out in the industry's turnaround plan.

Dr. Singh points out that the 2012 target was revised from 265,000 tonnes to 250,000 tonnes which is 5.7% above 2011's production output. This target is expected to be achieved owing to the fact that industrial relation issues have normalized, rectifying the Skeldon Factory and the instillation of the Enmore Packaging Plant which are all positive indicators for success.

However, the AFC among other political parties once accused the government of not doing enough for the sugar sector; hence they called for additional financial interventions. According to political pundits, the AFC's comment is seen as hypocritical since they had previously pledged to support the government's initiatives once it is in the interest of Guyana.

The sugar industry is the country's backbone, contributing nearly 16 percent to the country's GDP and in excess of 30 percent of the agricultural GDP. The AFC's comment has left the question lingering in the minds of rational thinking citizens whether the party is prepared to "walk the walk" or its only interest is in scoring cheap political points?

source: ncnguyana

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