Ministry of Agriculture is again ready for the field work, MANS warns
In the election year 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will have their hands on four million euro acquired through loans in order to carry out projects which have mostly turned out to be funded only to provide political advantage of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in the field.
One of these two loans, three million euro worth, the Ministry of Agriculture, chaired by Predrag Ivanović, concluded with the World Bank. It was granted for the Institutional Development and Agricultural Strengthening Project, also known as MIDAS. The other, two million euro loan, was concluded with the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development and it was dedicated to strengthening rural infrastructure.
The MIDAS has been carried out since 2009 and most of the Program is dedicated to farmers, who are given non-repayable funds of up to 50% or 60% of their planned investment. After four calls, the MIDAS should have ended by the middle of 2014. However, the government prolonged it owing to the funds provided from the Investment and Development Fund (IRF).
The Program was sustained in the year of local elections in the most of Montenegrin municipalities. Earlier information gathered by MANS Investigation Center showed that through the MIDAS IRF had given nearly €800,000 for 35 agricultural loans in six electoral municipalities, right before the May elections were called. Half of the money was allocated to farmers in Podgorica Capital City.
In the same period, IRF supported only eight farmers from other, non-electoral municipalities with €185,000. It is quite obvious that the payments were more intense in the towns where the elections were going to be held. Moreover, the government used the MIDAS program more intensively before the early parliamentary elections in 2012, when they expeditiously invited farmers to apply for agricultural grants only some ten days before the elections.
With regards to the infrastructural development in rural areas, which is carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, MANS Investigation Center has stressed many times that it is one of the most exploited mechanisms the DPS is using for political promotion in the field and the influence over voters. This is more apparent in the North, which is a rather underdeveloped part of the country.
MANS has earlier stated that the Ministry of Agriculture, through the state budget, projects €550,000, which is €60,000 more than the last year, for local infrastructure projects through the “Water Management” program. This sum will mostly be deployed for the construction of rural water supply systems.
Also, the Ministry of Agriculture has allocated €820,000, €20,000 more than in 2015, for the program “Rural Development”, and those funds are generally used for procurement of rainwater collectors, waterworks materials and earthworks during the road construction.
Previous election cycles show that construction projects for rural areas, which are carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, are usually followed by intensive media campaigns, especially by those media which are known to be very close to the government. In the same time, ministers from the relevant departments are also conducting vigorous campaigns in the field.
Finally, knowing that the Ministry of Agriculture is managing multimillion funds, to be used as farmers’ premiums and as the support to agricultural production through the Agro budget, it is apparent that there is a vast space for bribery before the parliamentary elections, which are to be held this year.
This text has been made with the support of the European Union within the project „Zero Tolerance to Corruption“. Network for Affirmation of Non-Governmental Sector – MANS is solely responsible for the contents of this article, and the views taken herein shall not in any case be considered as those of the European Union.
Information on money from Abu Dhabi Fund still being hidden
According to the recent statements made by the heads of the Ministry of Agriculture, out of $50 million agreed with the Abu Dhabi Fund for development of agriculture, $15 million has already been withdrawn as the first tranche.
The loans from the fund will go to „Mesopromet“, „Goranović”, “Milkraft” and “Vektra Jakić”, whose owners are being associated in public with the ruling party. In practice, those loans can mean opening new jobs and possibility to employ persons close to the DPS.
The Ministry of Agriculture is hiding all the documents referent to the loan signed with the Abu Dhabi Fund, for which the government gave the guaranty.
Premiums will also be paid before the elections
MANS Investigations Center has announced that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development paid around €2.2 million to farmers on the basis of subsidies for agricultural production in the critical month before the presidential elections in 2013. In the few months to follow, the Ministry of Agriculture paid eight times less, or €270,000.
Those are the premiums paid for agriculture and animal husbandry (not including milk premiums), which are paid from February until the end of June every year, proportionally to the livestock numbers and the surface of cultivated land in the previous year.
New programs designed by the Ministry before elections
Just prior to the local elections in May 2014, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development designed new programs to support farmers growing vegetables and olives with €300,000, in spite of the fact that similar programs had already been existing within the Agro budget.
Having in mind the fact that vegetables are mostly grown in Zeta and olives in Bar, and that farmers from those areas protested that the state had not provided them with appropriate working conditions, it is evident that the government had the intention to assist them with additional programs in the year of election.
Agro budget for 2016 should soon be approved.