The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government has apparently done a complete 360 degree turn-around in its approach to dealing with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the current economic and financial crisis facing the country.
As Minister of Finance, Dr. Mitchell had earlier told the nation that he was going to the IMF for a programme to deal with the problems facing the country and called on the people to be prepared to make sacrifices since there would be some pain.
The Ministry of Finance has now issued a statement which pointed out clearly that the NNP would instead be embarking upon its own “home grown programme” of fiscal adjustment and structural reforms.
Why the sudden about turn by the Mitchell government from going to the IMF for a programme to be administered by the IMF itself?
Is it that the situation is not that really bad and the government is confident about its own ability to handle the problem?
Back in the 1990-95 period, the Congress government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite and George Brizan introduced a home-grown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to deal with a bad fiscal situation then plaguing the country and which was inherited from the previous NNP government of late PM Herbert Blaize.
Brizan did not want to go down in history as the person who took Grenada into an IMF programme given the fears about the kinds of “bitter medicine” that had to be administered to a country like Jamaica that had a severe fiscal situation.
The late former Prime Minister and Minister of Finance turned to a battery of regional experts to help devise Grenada’s SAP and within three years the island had once again become creditworthy and was able to borrow loans from the international community.
It should be recalled that Dr. Mitchell then in opposition scoffed and laughed at the NDC with its programme but 20 years later he is forced to walk the same road of Structural Adjustment or the name that it is now referred to by the Ministry of Finance under his watch, “Fiscal adjustment and structural reforms”.
As calypsonian Black Wizard wrote a few years ago, a rose called by any other name is still a rose”.
It was almost 25 years ago that Grenada was virtually declared a bankrupt and uncreditworthy country by the international community.
However, the situation today is much worst. In 1989, the national debt was less than 400 million E.C dollars, unlike the current situation in which it is at a staggering EC$2.3 billion.
Time is certainly not on the side of the current government in light of its campaign promise of, “We will deliver” and its commitment to building “A New Economy” because investors were lined up and ready to come in after the February 19 poll.
The Prime Minister at the appropriate time will have to meet face-to-face with the island’s major creditors who have stated quite clearly that they would not engage the government on the critical issue of debt restructuring without the involvement of the fund.
This newspaper interprets this as a clear message from the Creditors that they do not trust Grenada and would like the fund to be on top of the situation.
In addition, the current government might be cautious in arriving at an agreement with the creditors due to its own fears that if it gives another commitment and fails to honour it then that will spell more trouble for the island.
How will the international financial community view Grenada and a third default on payments to creditors?
The first restructuring of the debts took place in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 when the island’s economy was severely wrecked.
There is a lot that Prime Minister Mitchell will need to inform the nation about especially on the “sacrifices” that each and every Grenadian will have to make as part of his now self-styled, “home grown programme” of fiscal adjustment and structural reforms.
Dr. Mitchell will have to come to each and every Grenadian and not only his NNP supporters to discuss “the programme”. The Nation must be fully informed and consulted before any agreement is signed in Washington with the IMF.
Finally, THE NEW TODAY would like to revisit the issue of allegations of sexual impropriety levelled against three senior police officers by a female Woman Police Constable who resigned from the force in May and left for the United States.
It is now public knowledge that the WPC accused one Police Officer in particular of rape and that Acting Commissioner of Police, Winston James announced that he had launched a criminal investigation into the allegations.
This newspaper is very suspicious of the manner in which the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Royal Grenada Police force (RGPF) is proceeding with the matter of the investigation.
It is time for the Minister of National Security who is Prime Minister Mitchell to urge Mr. James to see the wisdom in allowing the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to take charge of the investigations in the interest of fair-play and decency.
The type of investigation that is needed is way beyond the capacity of the Head of the CID who is not even entitled to question any of the three senior officers because all of them are more high-ranking in the force than him.
Mr. Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, as well as Acting Commissioner James, it will be a travesty of justice if the police force by its attitude is attempting to engage in a cover-up of the damning allegations.
Let the Office of the DPP take charge of the proceedings and allow the chips to fall where it should.