Second LEAP project manager resigns
Cites differences with contracting firm

Stabroek News
December 13, 2002

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The $2.2B European Union-funded Linden Economic Advancement Project (LEAP) will for the second time in a year be required to find an international project manager with the resignation of John Toner.

Toner, who replaced Dr Eddo Berentsen in July, after the latter had resigned, and who was confirmed in the position in September, tendered his resignation yesterday, citing differences with Belgium contracting firm, Transtec.

Transtec is the contracting firm where Toner was employed and which has been given the assignment to implement the LEAP project.

Tonerís impending departure was outlined in a statement to Stabroek News yesterday in which he cited differences with Transtec.

Contacted yesterday, Toner was adamant that his actions had nothing to do with the project but because of differences between Transtec and himself.

According to Toner, his resignation, intended to take immediate effect from yesterday, may not become effective until January 11, 2003. This is, however, dependent on his employers.

Several residents of the mining town who see the project as one with the capacity to revive its economic fortunes have expressed concerns at the slow disbursement of funds.

Toner, questioned on this concern, said that funding for ventures by residents under the Linden Economic Advancement Fund (LEAF) totalling $300M or Euro 1.9M, is supposed to be ready for disbursement in May 2003.

Negotiations to finalise this loan scheme, he noted, are currently ongoing.

He further said that LEAP is responding to the impending laying off of workers from the Linden Mining Enterprise (LINMINE), some of who have already received their severance packages.

Evidence of their work was emphasised in a press release yesterday from LEAP which said that LEAP on December 4 held a seminar for LINMINE workers who have received their severance pay and those about to receive severance.

At that meeting, LEAPís local manager, Donald Nurse, outlined the multi-faceted nature of the project, including unlimited access to business advisory services, a business incubator for new small businesses and the facilitation of entrepreneurial skills training.

In the release it was also outlined that LEAP has been able to facilitate a location in the McKenzie Market for farmers in Linden to retail their produce.

Officials of LEAP were also said to have met with officials of the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) to discuss constraints facing farmers in Region Ten (Upper Demerara/Upper Essequibo). Following the discussions it was decided that LEAP will present to NARI a work programme for 2003 identifying areas of intervention.

Further, NARI promised to make available for farmers in the region, nursery plants at a reduced cost on a monthly basis.

The project officials also met personnel from the Lands and Surveys department with whom the issue of land leases was discussed. Out of that meeting it was gleaned that agricultural lands are available in West Watooka, Moblissa and Rockstone and persons are being encouraged to apply for these.

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