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Let's contrast two statements about the World Bank post Hurricane Maria grant to agriculture- one from the opposition and the other from the Ministry of Agriculture. Firstly, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Reginald Thomas, has refuted claims that Cabinet and government officials were responsible for selecting farmers for grants from the World Bank's Agricultural Emergency Response Grant (AERG).

Dr. Thomas said: "We had lots of inconsistencies in dealing with the disbursement of the monies. It was advertised, so all farmers were entitled to apply. We had no control over that, so people who were not farmers etc. applied and that was placed in a database which then generated the list which we were not allowed to clean or alter.

"World Bank officials were there to oversee the project since they didn't want the involvement of Cabinet and or government. Government's hands are very clean. It's after we saw all the chaos and issues with people getting monies and are not farmers etc. that we then decided to do a screening job."

He continued: "The World Bank has access to the database and it's all coded, you must have approval of the World Bank to make changes. So indeed we had serious issues and had to address them. So we set up a grievance mechanism whereby people who felt aggrieved could appeal; you had then to show your sales record and proof of land ownership. We had an independent group made up of DEXIA, DAIC and the Hucksters Association dealing with that."

Here's how the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) sees the issue of the allocation of the World Bank farm grants.

In a statement Lennox Linton, the leader of the opposition, called for an immediate discontinuation of the Skerrit Administration's politicization of the World Bank's Agricultural Emergency Response Grant (AERG) which he said had "subjected hundreds of bona fide farmers and fishers to blatant injustice."

"Given the number of recipients of the funds who are not involved in farming or fishing and the number of farmers and fishers still on the merry-go-round of disrespect waiting to receive their entitlement, it is now clear that the Skerrit administration has abused the 18-million-dollar grant for partisan political purposes.

"The UWP believes that in the public interest of fairness, equity, transparency and accountability in the utilization of post Maria financial assistance from the world community, the World Bank is duty bound to order a full forensic investigation of the issues that have made the programme a hotbed of controversy," Linton said

About 4,900 farmers and fisher folks were expected to receive support from the US$25 million Emergency Agricultural Livelihoods and Climate Resilience project established to help farmers and fisher folks restore agriculture and fish production systems and adopt climate smart practices.


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