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Senate expected to pass ACB merger Bill today

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 06, 2017

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THE Senate will make another attempt today to pass the Agricultural Loan Societies and Approved Organizations Act, 2017.

The Bill was first raised in Parliament in July 2012 by then minister of state for industry, investment and commerce under the previous Government, Sharon Folkes Abrahams, as a measure to merge the Agricultural Credit Board (ACB) and the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies.

But it was actually tabled under the current Government and piloted through the House of Representatives by Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda in April.

It hit a serious roadblock in the Senate on September 22, when Government Senator Don Wehby agreed with Leader of Opposition business, Senator Mark Golding, who raised concerns about the provisions.

Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, who has been piloting the Bill through the Senate, told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that after the concerns were raised by the members, the technical team from the ministry had advised him to suspend the debate and allow them to review them.

He said that with the technical team having reviewed the issues and advised him, he was confident that the Bill would be passed by the Senate today.

Senator Golding and Senator Wehby expressed concerns about the level of corporate governance essential for entities, which would be subjected to the new provisions, and the need for improved access to credit and insurance for farmers.

Wehby said that while he welcomed the move to modernise the sector, which is necessary to achieve growth, one of its objectives was to improve efficiency in the execution of the ACB's functions.

He said that the Act did not ensure that, in the transfer of the ACB's regulatory function to the Registrar of Co-operatives Societies, the regulator would have the proper framework, structures and policies to ensure that it executes those functions to the highest standard.

He said that the Department of Co-operatives and Friendly Societies must be provided with the resources it needs to perform its additional functions.

“Personnel must be properly trained, have the appropriate technology, and adequate funding must be available. This is especially important for the registrar's inspection function,” he said.

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