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WILD COOT: The new sugar factory

HARRY RUSSELL, [email protected]

WILD COOT: The new sugar factory

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BARBADOS IS TO GET a new sugar factory soon.

The Wild Coot has been advised that plans have been drawn up. All that we are awaiting is the breaking of the ground and the erection of buildings.

There is much anticipation, and our Government has done well in securing funding for the state-of-the-art edifice. According to reports, the factory will be responsible for the grinding of all the cane produced in the country. Thus, despite the reduction of lands previously designated for growing cane, more cane will be produced.

In fact, those lands that have been fallow for a while will now be brought back into full production. We expect that Sagicor will reverse its decision and make a healthy contribution. We shall probably see ourselves producing sugar like in the halcyon days, even though the price on the world market is low. However, for us, it would mean valuable foreign exchange.

But sugar will not be the only product. Lands previously allowed to grow wild bush and wild tamarind will come into use. There is much land now dedicated to this where the only negative benefit is the cow itch which we have to fight. Perhaps we may find some useful medicinal purpose for the cow itch.

We anticipate by-products in dealing with sugar cane and wild tamarind from the energy created. This energy we can feed into the national grid. Thus, instead of Barbados Light & Power complaining about the serious loss this last year, there will in fact be a healthy profit and a win-win situation.

It is rumoured that close to 330 000 tonnes of sugar cane will pass through the new mills to yield over 15 000 tonnes of raw sugar, 12 000 tonnes of refined sugar and 24 000 tonnes of molasses. As for energy, over 170 000 megawatts of electricity will be produced.

That is not all. Ethanol, the by-product of sugar cane, will be in full production. This will encourage many farmers who are now frustrated to go back into growing sugar cane. Our fair land will once more revert to billowing swaying fields of green. Our importation of energy will decrease and there will be a saving of valuable foreign exchange.

A team comprising experts from Japan and Barbados had healthy discussions on the project back in January 2013 and it was estimated that the facility would be ready by 2016. A company by the name of Marubeni Corporation was supposed to undertake the financial aspect of the project.

Funny enough, the minister said nothing about this in his Budget speech. Surely the capital input would be sizeable and the work created a relief to the high unemployment. The income would save him having to impose $200 million of taxes mainly on the poor. Perhaps it was an oversight since the minister had to concentrate on more weighty matters that were drawn to his attention. He should not let people from over and away, who perhaps never managed a five and ten, give him advice.

A “brother man” who is a lawyer emailed me (since he does not want to use his cellphone) to say that he will not be able to practise. He usually religiously files his tax return by April 30, at which time the Barbados Revenue Authority, after a few weeks, will give him a tax clearance.

He will not be able to practise between January 1 and the time he gets his tax clearance, hopefully sometime after April 30. He said that he is not worried as he will be able to file for national insurance in the interim.

The minister had a lot to deal with in the short four hours. He did not deal with the relief for the aged. Perhaps, again, he forgot. You see, he solemnly promised the Wild Coot when he invited BARP to a meeting in the Cabinet room back in January 2015 that he would pass legislation to enable the granting of reverse mortgages. The Wild Coot reminded him that the matter was pending for three years and asked him to repeat his promise to the Minister of Health, who chaired the meeting. He did.

I believe that the seven years of failure of the various attempts to mend the economic model is causing the minister some concern. To our relief he has acknowledged that the various models have failed and what was delivered was now the latest model. If it does not work, I am sure we will get a mini-budget to rectify the shortcomings presented or not presented.

Harry Russell is a banker. Email [email protected]