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Rice Board boss goes; directors to be replaced

GRDB General Manager Jagnarine Singh

Government intends to accept the resignation of Jagnarine Singh, General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) and replace the entire board of the regulatory body, says Minister of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon.

Harmon shared that government is planning a review of the entire board, after which the current board will be removed and a new one will be established.

Harmon said that those decisions were taken by Cabinet after it was briefed on the composition of the GRBD and the actual management of the rice sector.

“We were advised that…Mr. Jagnarine, that he indicated his desire to demit office and we will accept his resignation and wish him well,” Harmon told members of the press during the weekly post-Cabinet briefing. Singh has been criticised by members of the sector working with millers to the detriment of rice farmers.

Harmon says that Cabinet is now of the view that “the additional sums of money which we have to pay on the shipment of rive to Venezuela, that we should apply a formula as we did for sugar.”

 “We will not be putting the monies into the hands of the people who have been there and directing it to all different types of projects,” the minister said Wednesday.

He further noted that there is no adequate explanation as to why the sector has been managed the way it has been over the last several years.

“I don’t believe we can give any proper explanation to the Guyanese people if you are to just continue pumping money into the hands of people who have been spending it without giving any proper explanations.”

He said that “the present governance in the rice sector will not put their hands on,” whatever new funds are pumped into the rice sector. As a result, the entire board, he indicated, will have to be removed.

 “We will review the board and then we will get rid f this one and out a new one. We’re not taking one man and putting him back there and reshuffling…we have to get a board that reflects our perception as to what is credible, what is transparent, and what is in the best interest of the sector,” Harmon said.

Finance Minister Winston Jordan is next week expected to lead a team to Venezuela to negotiate a new PetroCaribe deal ahead of the current one in another four months.

Harmon said that Jordan informed Cabinet yesterday that “he will be leading a team to Venezuela early next week on the continued negotiations for the PetroCaribe deal and that in that delegation will be a strong representation from the rice sector on selling rice to Venezuela, and to inquire as to the possibility of the extension of the present arrangement which come to an end in October in 2015.”

Under the PetroCaribe deal with Venezuela Guyana is permitted to purchase oil at lower than world-market prices. Furthermore, Guyana has been allowed to pay just 10 – 15 percent of the oil cost at the time of buying, with the remainder to be paid over a generous period. That had allowed Guyana to accumulate the savings from the transactions in a fund which was to be used to, among other things, pay rice famers for their produce.

The agreement also enables Guyana to pay for oil from its South American neighbour with its rice exports.