As Grenada celebrates its 40th anniversary of independence, THE NEW TODAY would make the bold statement that this country has had only three visionary leaders since the 1974 independence – the Father of Independence himself, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy, Maurice Bishop and George Brizan (all deceased).
Gairy was the least educated of the three since he did not attend a university to obtain a formal education and to attain a degree.
However, Sir Eric showed the vision to allow a U.S investor in the 1970’s to open up St. George’s University School of Medicine in the south of the island despite strong opposition and propaganda from the opposition, namely the New Jewel Movement (NJM) of Bishop, Unison Whiteman and Bernard Coard.
Today, the university is the largest private sector employer in the country and some of our own people receive the highest salaries paid in any private sector entity to individuals while not forgetting the hundreds of Grenadians who were given scholarships to become doctors.
If the university was to close its doors or move out of the country, our economy could collapse almost overnight because such is the importance of this American-owned institution and the pivotal role it plays in economic activities on the island.
A number of property owners in the country especially those in close proximity to the school have earned good money in rent from students and faculty members of the school.
The visionary Gairy should take all the credit for SGU. This university is in boundary with our international airport which was a visionary project of late Marxist Prime Minister Bishop and his 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).
Whether or not Gairy had conceptualised the project, the fact of the matter is that Bishop and his Comrades of the New Jewel Movement (NJM) were able to mobilise international assistance especially from Cuba through Fidel Castro to build the airport at Point Salines.
This project now plays a significant role in the upkeep of the island especially in the tourism sector.
Bishop and his government also had the vision and foresight to invest in the human resources of the country by providing hundreds of scholarships to ordinary Grenadians who are now back home providing critical service to the people especially in medicine and other important areas.
As Grenada marks its 40th year as an independent nation, this paper would like to identify Brizan as another visionary leader who is not getting the credit that he deserves from the land of his birth.
There is no monument that was built by Brizan that anyone can point to in looking back at his legacy but this former Prime Minister had the vision to understand the need for Grenada to introduce a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to deal with a serious fiscal problem that was created by the 1984-90 New National Party (NNP) of late Prime Minister Herbert Blaize.
The austerity measures of the programme that was introduced by the first National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite in which Brizan was the Minister of Finance, helped to return Grenada to a state of creditworthiness after the Blaize era.
The electorate did not like the bitter pills that were administered in the form of medicine to the Grenadian economy and Congress was voted out of office in 1995 to usher in a new era by NNP under a new leader, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The next 13 years saw a period of economic and financial madness as Dr. Mitchell and his government jeopardised the gains of the SAP by engaging in a series of unwise borrowing and spending on several non-productive projects as part of the “eat-a-free food” mentality that pervaded the society.
Although Brizan was ailing and affected by poor eyesight by the time of the 2008 general elections won by NDC, he understood the mathematical figures of the economic construct and suggested that urgent steps be taken to come up with another austerity package to deal with the situation.
The new kids on the block in NDC were apparently scared of looking in the direction of another SAP in light of NNP propaganda that all Congress knew was introducing Structural Adjustment Programmes to bring hardship on the people but NNP will never punish the people with taxes.
Although Brizan, the visionary leader is dead, the news might somehow reach him that current Prime Minister Mitchell, who largely created the fiscal problem has been forced to introduce such a programme to deal with a more than worrying situation for Grenada.
As fate will have it, Dr. Mitchell is quite rightly so the most fitting and appropriate person to be seated in the Prime Minister’s chair in the Botanical Gardens to preside over the bitter pills that are so necessary and badly needed to halt the slide in the economy.
THE NEW TODAY would only hope that the present Prime Minister would use the programme to seriously address the fiscal situation and not engage in activities to seek short-term political advantage by rolling out measures that are solely aimed at winning elections and holding onto power.
The predicament facing Grenada is right now bigger than NNP or NDC because the future prospects for generations to come could be affected by the success or failure of the programme.
This newspaper would like to see Dr. Mitchell rise to the occasion and act more like a Statesman and invite Grenadians with the skills to help in this national rescue mission.
The latest report put out a few days ago by Standard & Poors indicated that the island’s government did not have the persons with the technical capacity to offer meaningful assistance with the debt restructuring that is a critical component for the success of the programme.
The likes of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine and his deputy Michael Sylvester are in need of urgent help to arrest the problem.
In the national interest, THE NEW TODAY would suggest to Prime Minister Mitchell that he makes serious approaches to the likes of Dr. Brian Francis, Dr. Wayne Sandiford, Gregory Renwick, Richard Duncan and others with skills in economics, finance and public expenditure to put their expertise at the disposal of the country and people.
Our leaders must be prepared to bury their selfish pride in this Grenada’s greatest hour of need in order to deal with a financial and economic crisis beyond the control of any one single party in the country.