Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 18th 2017 Contents A6 news
guardian.co.tt Saturday, March 18, 2017
100 farm workers to go home
CEO hopes for PM's change of heart
CEO of Caroni Green Ltd (CGL) Sharma
Lalla says Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley
is mixing up the facts when it comes to per-
formance of the State company.
Speaking with the media at the company's Bre-
chin Castle offices yesterday, Lalla said govern-
ment is confusing CGL with Caroni Green Initiative
(CGI), the company it replaced which was run by
Caroni (1975) Limited.
Lalla said CGL operated on funds from a grant
from the European Union in 2014 and not with
He said the company has so far exported US$1
million in hot peppers and was about to declare
"It is a very sudden decision and one that has
taken us by surprise. I think it is rather unfortu-
nate that such a decision would be communicated
in the media rather than we receiving some prior
information," Lalla said.
Lalla said he met with line minister Clarence
Rambharat (Minister of Agriculture, Lands and
Fisheries) one week ago and the minister articu-
lated a different position.
"I would want to say categorically based on what
the Prime Minister mentioned at the post-Cabinet
debriefing is based on a lot of misinformation. I
think there is mass confusion on what was referred
to as the CGI in 2013-2014 and CGL which is a
separate corporate entity. CGI was a project that
was undertaken by Caroni (1975) Ltd and a lot of
the statements that the Prime Minister made in-
cluding reference to the Ernst and Young audit."
He said this audit referred to the performance
of the CGI from January 2013-January 2014 and
never CGL. Lalla said the findings of this dated
report has been included in the planning of the
new company. "I can give the nation the assur-
ance that a lot of the ills that the Prime Minister
articulated, which are quite valid by the way, have
been addressed and corrected in the operations of
the new company."
Lalla said based on the managed accounts for
the last financial year the company will be declar-
ing a profit.
"The auditors are in the final stages of their work
and we expect by the end of March that position
would be confirmed by the findings of the external
auditors," Lalla said.
He has made a request to meet with Rambharat
to discuss the issue. Lalla said CGL was not com-
peting with farmers but getting them into com-
mercial pepper production. He said the company
has a partnership with PCS Nitrogen to train local
farmers to get them into commercial production.
Lalla said most of the company's 100 employees
are labourers including a large section single moth-
ers and people from impoverished communities
who would have to hit the breadline. Lalla said he
is optimistic that once the prime minister sees the
report of the company's outstanding performance
he would have a change of heart.
Rambharat in response to a text message yester-
day revealed that the Economic Advisory Board in
its review of CGL found that the company should
be shut down.
"The ministry also looked at the rationale for
setting up the company and found that the com-
pany no longer met the original mandate."
Rambharat said CGL had become a cost to tax-
payers that outweighed its potential benefits.
He said a board of directors, approved by Cabinet
and chaired by Jerry Hospedales would work with
the ministry to determine CGL's next step.
Cuffie: GHRS no longer needed
35 employees to be axed
Approximately 35 employees of the Govern-
ment Human Resource Services Company Ltd
(GHRS) are expected to be sent home.
Confirmation came from Minister of Public Ad-
ministration and Communications Maxie Cuffie in
response to a text message yesterday.
Cuffie could not say when the workers will be axed
as "new directors from the Ministry of Finance will
be confirmed next week and they will determine the
schedule for the winding up" of GHRS.
Yesterday, Cuffie met with the affected staff mem-
bers, hours after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley
announced that the state company will be shut down.
Rowley also revealed that Caroni Green Ltd, another
company managed by the State will also face closure.
Cuffie admitted that Government's decision to
wrap up GHRS' operations which falls under his
purview was painful and tough.
In a release issued yesterday, Cuffie apologised
to GHRS' staff for not communicating with them
before the PM made the announcement.
He said the country could no longer pay $8 mil-
lion annually to GHRS when they no longer needed
to attract people from abroad and did not have the
funds to pay them.
When GHRS was established in 2006, Cuffie said
the economy grew by 7.7 per cent and Government
felt it needed to attract the best minds to T&T.
"We had the money to employ them and to bring
them here. By 2010 the international recession had
kicked in, our economic growth had declined and the
Government was challenged for funds. So in fact from
2010 a decision was made to look at the possibility
of closing GHRS. A Cabinet note was drafted, but it
was never submitted and time went on," Cuffie said.
With the downturn in the economy, Cuffie said a
committee which was set up to examine the oper-
ations of special purpose companies and state en-
terprises, identified GHRS as one of the companies
the Government did not need.
"The Public Accounts Enterprise Committee,
which is chaired by an Opposition member, also
looked at GHRS and found that it had strayed from
its mandate and there needs to be a new vision if
the company is to survive."
Cuffie said it was recommended that the services
offered by GHRS be transferred to the Public Service.
He promised that Government will honour the
employees' contracts and its obligations, while
urging the employees to take advantage of the Na-
tional Employment Service offered by the Ministry
Assuring that a system will be put in place to help
the employees through this difficult period, Cuffie
said GHRS employed some of the brightest minds
and was confident that they would have no difficulty
landing new jobs.
Minister of Public Administration and Communications, Maxie Cuffie, left, greets an employee of the Government
Human Resource Service Company Ltd during his visit to the company's offices in Chaguanas yesterday.
Caroni Green Ltd CEO, Sharma Lalla at his office in
Couva, yesterday. PHOTO: SHASTRI BOODAN
Former food pro-
Devant Maharaj, the
brainchild of the Ca-
roni Green Ltd (CGL),
the company's closure.
Maharaj said the move
by the Government
"continues to reinforce
the perception that the
PNM administration has
no clear understanding of
the agricultural sector."
On Thursday, Prime
Minister Keith Rowley
said CGL was spending
$6 million to produce
700,000 peppers and
facing private sector
competition and would
be shut down.
Stating that the PM's
argument to close the
company's doors was un-
justified, Maharaj said he
wondered if Rowley will
apply the same logic to
CNMG, Caribbean Air-
lines, Petrotrin, PTSC
and National Petroleum
which cost taxpayers
millions of dollars and
with the private sector.
"Or does the Prime
Minister economic logic
only apply to the agri-
culture sector located
primarily in the areas
where the Opposition
support is strong?" He
said if those statements
were the basis for Row-
ley's decision, then it was
a bad one.
Maharaj estimated 20
administrative staff and
80 daily-paid labourers
will face the breadline
with CGL's closes it
He said Rowley called
CGL "a pepper compa-
ny competing with the
private sector. Caroni
Green has been involved
in the development of
several crops. CGL has
been facilitating import
substitution of peppers
successfully that created
a cadre of small entre-
preneurs who can have a
reliable supply of peppers
and have a sustainable
business." Launched in
2014, the CGL was pro-
posed as an agricultural
development plan to cul-
tivate crops, help reduce
the food import bill and
decrease food inflation.
In 2016, Maharaj said
CGL showed a profit.
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