Prime Minister The Hon. Dr. Timothy Harris said people waiting for funds from the Sugar Workers Restoration Fund will have to wait longer for payment since the funds are tied up in court.
The fund was created in 2015 by the Government of national Unity shortly after the new leadership took office. It was part of their election campaign promises to pay off individuals who were connected with the sugar cane industry.
Team Unity had asked Venezuela for help with making the payments. A report published in the Telsur released details that Venezuela had donated US$16 million under the PetroCaribe initiative. President Nicolas Maduro had visited the Federation to help pay off the debt. The visit was complicated by a controversy that developed over who could make claims on behalf of deceased sugar cane workers and family embers. Dr. Harris said the process for applying for a deceased person would be ‘complicated by nature. He added about 500 people made applications on behalf of deceased relative.
‘The hub of the matter is really the delay in the court that we cannot make any payment in relation to any deceased,” he stated. ‘”We are advised that we ought not because we can be held liable unless these matters are passed through the court.”
The prime minister declared the government realizes the amounts being paid were significantly below estate value. This caused the government to move to the National Assembly to raise the threshold on small estates.
He added, “We went to parliament and changed the law to increase what is considered the appropriate value of the threshold for the small estates. If it is a small estate, it is much easier to go through the usual process, but if it is large, it is more cumbersome.” He said the decision was made to bring some leeway to people seeking payment.
Dr. Harris suggested there may be another step the government could take to speed up judicial proceedings, but he did not go into detail on what that might be. It is also unclear if relatives of people who cam from other island nations to work in the sugar industry would be able to collect from the restoration fund.