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Penn concerned farmers, fishers grants not under subject ministry

Penn concerned farmers, fishers grants not under subject ministry

Opposition Leader Marlon Penn has expressed concern that disbursements made to farmers and fisherfolk under the government’s COVID-19 assistance grant programme were not made under the relevant subject ministry.
Speaking on the NDP Radio programme recently, Penn said the payments were reportedly made under the Ministry of Finance which is helmed by Premier Andrew Fahie.

“I don’t understand how you could have a process – a policy decision made on farming and fishing – and the Minister responsible for the subject isn’t involved in the process. That is even more concerning to me and it should be concerning to the public in terms of how the process was followed,” Penn stated.

“There was a clear process based on the information provided [in the House of Assembly] in terms of how these funds should have been disseminated,” Penn stated.

Citing documents he received in the House of Assembly, Penn explained that the requirements for persons to receive a disbursement state that applicants must be registered with the Department of Agriculture & Fisheries. And if not registered with the department, the must provide a notarised letter of referral from a fit and proper person verifying that they have been engaged in farming or fishing.

The Opposition further shared that applicants must depend on farming or fishing as a source of income and must be engaged in commercial agriculture (as defined by the department), to be eligible for financial assistance. Persons have had to be engaged in commercial agriculture within the past three years and are required to provide sufficient information on their engagement in commercial agriculture within those years.

According to the information Penn received in the House of Assembly, these requirements were to be done specifically for the consideration of the Minister of Agriculture.

Around the time a leaked list of farmers and fishers who received the assistance began circulating on social media, BVI News reached out to Dr Wheatley for comment. He referred our news centre to the Premier’s Office.

Premier Fahie has since publicly said the list in question is inaccurate. Giving further information in parliament, Fahie disclosed that government pumped $6.1 million worth of economic stimulus into the local agriculture industry since the advent of COVID-19.
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