The near seven month old Congress government of Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell is hoping to take decisive action on the future of the cash-strapped state-owned Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB) “by the end of January.”
“We have no choice but to make this decision quickly, ” the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance told a consultation meeting with various stakeholders in St. Andrew on Tuesday, where he outlined the financial challenges being faced by the Marketing Board.
The Prime Minister said MNIB owes about “$6million” to “two banks and is “unable to pay” the outstanding arrears.
He disclosed that “the banks have indicated to the government – that’s obviously in polite language (that) they would like to know how they are going to get the money.”
In addition, he said the MNIB owes “about $2.8 million to other creditors,” including “farmers, suppliers, landlords from which it is operating, utility suppliers like the power company.
PM Mitchell revealed that the Government has had to step in and pay the salaries of MNIB employees in November and December.
He said that “two meetings” have already been held with the staff at the MNIB and prior to that the Union representing the workers, outlined the government’s position on the issue.”
“As Minister of Finance, I cannot in good conscience continue to pay staff if we do not have a plan. And, in fairness to the staff when we met with them, they also said they would like quick and decisive action because they need to know whether they (are) coming or going literally,” he said.
As the government seeks to determine to what extent it can continue supporting the state-owned entity, PM Mitchell pointed out that three (3) options are now being considered.
“To some extent we have three options between a complete shutdown and a new entity, a partial closing of some aspects of MNIB, and the government assuming some of the debts or the government simply continuing to pump more money into MNIB in the hope that the Board can find the management to turn MNIB around,” he remarked.
Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell stated that “regardless of what the options are, it is taxpayers money that are already spending because we’ve already paid staff for the last two months and we are likely to do it for the coming month or until we get to a point where we have a decisive decision.”
Last July, the Grenadian leader told reporters that the MNIB has “been hemorrhaging money” operating at a loss in excess of EC$1 million a month” and has been “sucking significant resources out of the state to repay loans taken to pay basic operating costs and that cannot continue for much longer.”
He has identified the MNIB as one of the entities that will “require major urgent attention” in going forward as the Congress administration rolls out its transformational agenda for the country.
The Prime Minister had also alluded to the Integrity Commission’s intervention to investigate the management and operations of MNIB for the period 2012-2018, noting that “there have been significant issues in the recent past pertaining to mismanagement, corruption, all kinds of things…”
“And so, we are going to have to take critical measures to address hence the need to have the board put in place so that we can take control of the situation and have firm recommendations as to how we go forward,” PM Mitchell remarked.