“I want to invite the Leader of the Opposition to stop it. Stop this concept that the fishing and farmer grants were given out to nobody who deserved it,” Malone said on the VIP Let’s Talk radio programme recently.
“The very [House of Assembly] member brought members into the Premier to be granted with fisher and farmer [assistance grants],” Malone added.
The Health Minister insisted that he knows for a fact that Penn, the Eighth District Representative, brought a number of individuals in to receive assistance grants.
“So, is he saying that the people that he brought in were people not deserving of the fishing and farmer grants?” Malone asked.
The Health Minister said the scenario was akin to a former governor and a minister in the United Kingdom (UK) government who said that a $40 million grant taken by the Virgin Islands Party (VIP) government from the Social Security Board was given to their friends and family.
“My family and friends are asking well, ‘where is mine?’” Malone said. “There is nothing there because it went to the places it had [to go]”
But, even as he conceded that there may have been persons who benefited from the grants that shouldn’t have, Malone insisted that the Opposition Leader’s negative messaging needed to stop.
“Were there one or two persons? Maybe, yes. But at the end of the day, this constant messaging, he has to stop it,” the Health Minister said.
Just recently on the NDP radio show, Penn said the government needed to be more targeted in its measures at ensuring food security for the territory.
As a means to this, he said the government needs to determine current consumption rates in terms of food and the types of food that are being used by residents.
“Are we producing at the rates that we need to be producing at to meet just the bare minimum in terms of our consumption rates? These are the basic things we need to know first off the bat,” Penn argued.
“If we’re not, then we need to have, from a scientific point of view, [a way to] figure out where we need to be, where the money needs to be targeted,” he added.
Penn continued: “… Not take $6 million in stimulus and claim that you are going to develop fishing and farming and just give it away without a clear strategy or a clear plan in terms of how you’re going to grow the industry and develop which sectors of the industry you’re going to develop.”
More than $6 million was reportedly distributed by the government in fishing and farmer assistance grants in 2020 to help cushion the effects of the global pandemic.
However, a leaked list that purportedly showed the names and amounts received by those recipients was met with significant backlash by the public, particularly since many of those persons were deemed to be neither farmers nor fishers.