The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government has installed a new eight-member Board to serve as Directors on the controversial Belvidere Development Company Limited (BDCL) which has been inactive since the 1990’s.
Speaking to reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet press conference, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Anthony Boatswain said there is good potential for increased agricultural production in the area and government believes that the estate should become active once again.
Former Agriculture Minister in the 1990-95 Congress government, the late George Brizan played a pivotal role in the purchase of lands in the Belvidere area to help set up the company.
The state-controlled National Insurance Scheme and the Grenada Development Bank (GDB) were allegedly used to help bankroll the purchase of the lands from private entities to set up BDCL).
THE NEW TODAY understands that BDCL was beset by many problems over the years and NIS moved to recover some of its funds by selling off portions of the lands in Belvidere.
According to Minister Boatswain, the newlook board will be headed by George Phillip, Senior Agricultural Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture and includes Derrick Charles, Carlton Gully, Atkinson Felix, Chief Agricultural Officer, Daniel Lewis, as well as a representative from banking or the private sector and a representative from the Marketing and National Importing Board (MNIB).
“Government has decided to give some broad guidelines as to what is expected of the board and some of these guidelines as identified in the terms of reference for the new board includes clarifying the baseline information and application of the lands and assets of the company…”, he said.
“…As it stands right now, it is not clear who are the occupants of the lands and what is the status of the company – so that has to be determined,” he added.
Minister Boatswain pointed out that the new board will have to negotiate with creditors to address some of the outstanding debts that have been acquired over the years.
“As you know there are significant debts incurred by the company which have not yet been liquidated and therefore the new board will have to decide how we can liquidate the debt and let the company become more solvent,” he said.
“They have to regularise the status of the existing occupiers of the land because you can’t go forward if you do not know who is occupying the land or whether you want them to continue occupying the land,” he added.
These issues, according to Minister Boatswain, will have to be dealt with by the Board of Directors to ensure that the Belvidere Estate returns to its full potential.
Former Agriculture Minister Michael Baptiste who had oversight of the agriculture portfolio in the 1995-99 period under a former NNP administration described BDCL as a nightmare.
Baptiste said that the issues surrounding the company are rather “complex” as ownership of some of the lands are questionable.