Once a hub for fishers to bring their catch and earn a living, the former BVI Fishing Complex in Port Purcell closed after Hurricane Irma battered it in 2017. Fishers have found other ways to sell their catch. (File Photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)

After Hurricane Irma destroyed the BVI Fishing Complex at Port Purcell, government received a $400,000 insurance payout for the facility.

But those funds have sat untouched while the government planned a new facility in Paraquita Bay, and officials said during the recent Standing Finance Committee deliberations that more money is needed for the project from this year’s budget.

The report on the closed-door SFC proceedings stated that Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Permanent Secretary Carolyn Stoutt-Igwe said $50,000 was allocated in the 2022 budget to help build the complex at Paraquita Bay.

She added that plans have been drawn up and engineering designs are being finalised, but no further information about the project was provided.

Ms. Stoutt-Igwe also listed various problems faced by her ministry, including a shortage of workers with fisheries expertise, according to the SFC report.

Ministry problems

Agriculture and Fisheries Department Director Theodore James addressed the SFC as well, requesting funding for other agricultural and fisheries projects.

He asked for $80,000 to rehabilitate the exhibition site at Paraquita Bay; $67,000 for wells and zoning; $18,000 for a security fence; and $10,000 to complete the animal pound.

Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said the ministry is in the process of creating a statutory body that would address many of Mr. James’s concerns, according to the SFC report.

He added that the statutory body would have greater autonomy, more independence, and more freedom and flexibility to make financial decisions.

The minister also said that one of his priorities is to fix the water troubles at Paraquita Bay, according to the SFC report.

Premier Andrew Fahie said government is serious about agriculture and other food production, but that the Ministry of Finance is dealing with financial challenges presented by the pandemic.

He added that government is waiting for revenue to increase to accommodate requests from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.