Sugar sectorExpressing suspicion as to how the Government has used the billions it allocated to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) since taking office in 2015, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is calling for a probe to be launched into how these monies were spent.Articulating the Party’s position on the matter during a Friday morning press conference was PPP General Secretary Bharrat Jagdeo. According to Jagdeo, there are discrepancies between the figures quoted by President David Granger in his January 10 speech and Agriculture Minister Noel Holder.Former President Bharrat JagdeoJagdeo quoted verbatim from Granger’s speech, in which the President pointed out that “a new factory at Skeldon in the East Berbice-Corentyne region was built at a cost of US$212 million and $48 billion was expended in financial support to the industry since 2011, while $32 billion was spent over the past 30 months, which when calculated sums up to a rate of about $1 billion a month. This Government cannot sustain the sugar industry in its current state. It has had to make difficult choices in order to ensure the industry’s viability.”The PPP General Secretary noted that the figure quoted in Granger’s speech was divided by the number of months. Jagdeo, an economist by training, observed that this was how the figure of a billion a month was arrived at. According to Jagdeo, however, this does not add up and there is a clear contradiction between the President and his Agriculture Minister.“Holder said over the past seven years, Government pumped $48 billion in GuySuCo. $600 million in 2011; $4 billion in 2012; $5.3 billion in 2013; $6 billion in 2014; $12 billion in 2015; $11 billion in 2016; and $9 billion in 2017,” Jagdeo stated, quoting the Minister. “So when you add this, you see $48 billion over seven years. (But Granger) added $32 billion on top of it in his speech. Then he divided by the number of months and that’s how he came up with $1 billion a month. He over inflated the figures by two times in his speech to the nation. And Holder gave the accurate figures.”Agriculture Minister Noel Holder“Even in those figures, you would see that the period 2011 to 2014, an average of $4 billion a year was given in subsidy to GuySuCo. Between 2015 to 2017, $10.6 billion average. And that is impossible. It’s more than double the subsidy in just three years. We need to have a full-fledged investigation into whether this money was given, how it was spent. And knowing the nature of this Government, I suspect a significant portion of this money may have disappeared. And if they were so good at management, the figure should have deteriorated.”Government had announced that it will pay 50 per cent of the severance benefits to dismissed sugar workers by the end of this month. This commitment represents over $2 billion in severance payments, with a paper seeking to appropriate supplementary funds being laid and debated in the House.It was during this announcement that President Granger in a speech read by the Prime Minister spoke of $48 billion being spent since 2011 on the industry. Jagdeo expressed the belief, however, that the incorrect figures were no mere mistake.“Now when Guyanese hear this figure (from the President), they will say yes it can’t be afforded because it is a large sum of money. So that is what I believe it was designed to do, to say that we can’t afford to keep the sugar industry alive,” he stated.Soon after coming to office, the coalition Government doubled the subsidy to GuySuco to $12 billion. Nine billion dollars was also budgeted for early in the year, with a further $2 billion after the Corporation approached the Government requesting approximately $3.5 billion.A further $9 billion was approved in 2017 for GuySuCo, with Finance Minister Winston Jordan announcing that If Government adhered to the requests for specific monies for GuySuCo, it would be money wasted.In May 2017, Government announced plans to close the Enmore and Rose Hall Sugar Estates, sell the Skeldon Sugar Factory, reduce the annual production of sugar, and take on the responsibility of managing the drainage and irrigation services offered by GuySuCo.