Negotiations ongoing to recover monies owed from Panama rice deal

Negotiations are ongoing in the case between the Government of Panama and the Guyana Rice Development Board, as the government works to recover the approximately US$7 million owed to Guyanese millers.

Under the previous APNU+AFC government, large quantities of rice were purchased from local farmers and sold to the Panamanian government on credit. However, the deal was made without comprehensive payment terms, and the monies were never received.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall, at his year-end press conference, at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on Monday, said that the government is keen on arriving at an amicable resolution, and the Panamanian government has offered a payment proposal.

“Based upon the proposals we have received, which we are actively considering, Guyana may have to forego the interest that would have accrued under the debt. The interest is almost the same size or larger than the principal now, having regard to the length of time that the monies took to be paid,” he said.

The government has filed proceedings at the International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Centre in Washinton DC, but millions more may have to be spent on legal fees to arrive at a resolution.

According to the AG, over US$ 150,000 has already been expended in these proceedings.

He added that even if the ruling is favourable, it may be difficult to enforce on the Panamanian government. 

“An arbitral award, though binding, is difficult to enforce against a government. It’s not a private entity whereby you can seize the assets of that entity. Here you are dealing with the government of a country and it is often very difficult to enforce judgements or arbitral awards against a government,” AG Nandlall explained.

With this in mind, he reasoned that it may be better to settle, so that there is a swift resolution that does not require the spending of exorbitant amounts.

“Those are the considerations that are heavily prevailing upon our minds as we negotiate a settlement of this matter. Central to the conclusion will be Guyana being paid whatever sum we agreed to, even if it is only the principal sum. That is US$ 7 million, which are due and owing to the rice farmers of our country, and has been due and owing for over seven year,” he said.

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