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Eustace opposes Commodity Bill

Eustace opposes Commodity Bill

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The Opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) has blasted the Government for what they term a “rushing through” of the controversial Produce and Commodity Bill during the Thursday, August 17, sitting in parliament.

According to Opposition leader Arnhim Eustace, the bill is based on the now repealed Marketing Corporation Act. The Act gives the minister with responsibility for Agriculture the authority to among other things, organize and effect imports of commodities.{{more}} This is for the purpose of securing a sufficiency of those commodities essential to the well being of the community, their equitable distribution and their availability at fair prices.

Under this new bill, the Government could seek to secure the most favorable arrangements for the purchase, handling, transportation, exportation and shipping, marketing and sale of produce out of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Minister of Agriculture will be able to declare any commodity to be a specified commodity and no one will be allowed to export any produce so declared. A fine of up to $2500 can be slapped on any one who contravenes the provisions of this bill. And the onus of proving that the provision of this Act or regulation has been complied with shall be on the person prosecuted. A subsequent offence can bring a burden of $5000.

However Eustace said that the Government “wants to control people and pass out favours.” He said that one aspect of the Act gives the Government the opportunity to “pass out jobs for the boys.” The new act gives the Agriculture minister permission to appoint any government undertaking to be the sole purchaser, handler, processor, seller and exporter of such produce that is specified.

Eustace calls the Act a backward legislation, and asked, “in this day and age what the Government want with that?”

Efforts to interview the Minister of Agriculture, Montgomery Daniel, who would under this Act wield the power described failed as he told SEARCHLIGHT that he would not comment on that bill.

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