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The fate of MNIB assets

With the search for private sector investment to replace the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) to commence March 01, the buildings, equipment and property at River Road will be transferred to government.

Valued at $18 million, these “fixed assets” of the MNIB will ultimately be government’s “intended contribution” to a public private partnership (PPP) expected to replace the debt-ridden statutory body, according to Prime Minister Hon Dickon Mitchell.

Speaking at a post Cabinet press briefing on Tuesday, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance announced that a Technical Working Group will begin its six-month job of “assisting government with the creation of a new entity.” While assuring that the names of the individuals will be provided “in due course,” he confirmed the group has a chairman, and will include a representative of the Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce, a legal representative from the private sector, a legal representative from the Attorney General’s Chambers, a representative for farmers in Grenada and one for farmers in Carriacou. This composition was clarified when the Government Information Service (GIS) issued a press release later in the day stating the composition as chair, representative for farmers, representative for the Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce, representative for the Ministry of Agriculture, representative for legal affairs and representative for Carriacou and Petite Martinique. During the six-month period, the River Road facility will remain open to accommodate farmers.

The decision to pursue a PPP is based, in part, on what farmers, agro-processors and other stakeholders told the Prime Minister during consultations on the MNIB last month and his public promise of a Cabinet decision by the end of January. Between March and September, “if not sooner” the group will identify potential working capital from private sector investors, as well as “management expertise to drive that process.”

The entity to emerge will focus on storage, logistics, preservation, distribution and selling of Grenadian crops and agro-processed goods in international markets. Moreover, legislation governing the MNIB will be repealed and whatever emerges to replace the statutory body as a PPP, “ultimately we intend to retain some equity in the entity,” he assured.

The Prime Minister noted too that the current state of the MNIB, which owes approximately $15.1 million to banks and other third parties, including farmer clients, posed serious questions about the capacity of government, through a statutory body, to provide the expected services. Government will pay approximately $2.5 million in severance pay to the 94 employees.

In addition to the private sector, as to who he expects will invest in the new entity, he referred to members of the public and other stakeholders who may be interested, including farmers and farmers’ cooperatives.

Accusing previous administrations of hand-picking board members and filling senior management positions based on “political affiliation” and stating “it is clear there was wrongdoing at the MNIB,” he said any decision regarding legal steps is with the Director of Public Prosecution.

First envisioned by the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) government in 1973 and pursued by the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), the MNIB has operated with changing boards and senior management positions during the past 50 years over subsequent New National Party (NNP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) administrations.

Blaming those who “stood by and watched” the “mismanagement and corruption” to continue, he stated that the MNIB situation is beyond the investigation point and “has come to a point where there is some reckoning.”

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