By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – Minister of State, Joseph Harmon has announced that General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Jagnarine Singh has offered his resignation, which the APNU+AFC government will accept.
It was also noted that the Rice Board will be removed and a new one installed. This comes after some rice farmers in Essequibo, Region 2 called for the revamping of the rice board, which would see Singh being removed from his portfolio.
Naith Ram, Tage Shewcharran, Bhim Singh and Karan Chand of the Essequibo Paddy Farmers Association had accused the Board of being corrupt and working in collusion with the millers.
But Singh, during a recent interview with iNews had dismissed the allegations, nothing that if the government wanted him to resign, he will do so. Singh’s contract with the government is slated to expire in 2018.
Minister Harmon at a post cabinet media briefing on Wednesday, June 24, said that Cabinet was briefed on the composition of the GRDB and the actual management of the rice sector.
He explained that the additional sums of money which has to be paid on the shipment of rice to Venezuela under the PetroCaribe deal should be done by applying a formula, as is being done for sugar, “Which means that we will not be putting the monies into the hands of the people who have been there and diverting it to all different types of projects.”
The Minister further explained that the Rice Board will be reviewed and a new one will be established, pointing out that the government will accept the resignations of those on the current Board.
“We have to clean up the Board as well. It’s not reshuffling the same pack. We have to get a Board that reflects the perception as to what is credible, what is transparent and what is in the best interest of the sector,” Harmon told reporters.
He noted, “The industry already has too much at stake and as a nation, we have to provide the country with careful explanations as to how we deal with the patrimony of the State, how we manage the affairs of the State and I don’t believe we can give any proper explanation to the Guyanese people if you are just to continue pumping money into the hands of people who are spending it without giving any proper explanations.”
Recently also, the new government revealed that the PetroCaribe fund was found to be bankrupt. It was later discovered that just over US$141 million was doled out from the account to fund several projects under the previous government.
In this regard, Harmon announced that Agriculture Minister, Noel Holder will lead a team to Venezuela next week to continue negotiations relating to the extension of the PetroCaribe deal, which expires in October 2015.
According to Harmon, the market for Guyana’s rice is a major issue and that Venezuela only takes up 36% of rice exported.