Amidst the announcement of October 27 as the date for the holding of the Referendum on Constitutional Reform, the island could be subjected to campaigning of a different kind in the weeks leading up to the event.
The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is said to be preparing its troops for a possible snap general election weeks before Referendum Day.
The party’s Political Leader, Nazim Burke is apparently convinced that there are signs on the horizon that Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell would seek re-election to office before year-end and even before October 27.
The head of NDC’s Women’s arm, Jenny Simon told her listeners Sunday on her weekly radio programme that Congress is eyeing September as the possible date for the snap poll.
The information reaching us is that the opposition believes that the financial situation is not as healthy as the ruling New National Party (NNP) is painting it under the Structural Adjustment Programme.
The NDC seems convinced that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be hard-pressed to give a passing grade to the programme in light of government’s alleged reluctance to take certain critical corrective fiscal measures as proposed by the Fund.
The heart of the matter is IMF’s insistence that the Mitchell-led government address the high monthly wage bill since the attrition policy is turning out to be a tiny drop in the ocean in terms of what is really needed.
Plainly speaking, the fund is pushing for retrenchment in the civil service to bring down the wage bill.
The NDC is hedging its bet on the assumption that PM Mitchell will be forced to call early election with the hope of renewing his mandate and then embarking upon a retrenchment programme in the civil service.
Another Congress pointer is centered on reports that the NNP regime will be under financial constraints to make regular half yearly payments to U.S bondholders based on the arrangement worked out under the auspices of the IMF.
The NDC has apparently picked up information that the present controllers made a payment of EC$34 million dollars during April/May to the bondholders.
Another payment is due in November and with most of government’s taxes for 2016 collected in the first six months of the year, it would be difficult for the Mitchell government to easily make the payment and find another $25 to $30 million in the same month to pay civil servants.
If the EC$34 million dollar payout to the bondholders is true then it raises serious questions about the type of deal that the NNP administration was able to work out with the IMF under the programme.
Is the NNP payment much higher than what existed under the 2008-13 NDC administration?
The payment due to the bondholders on debts contracted by a former Mitchell government was first put on hold in the aftermath of the ravages caused to Grenada in 2004 and 2005 by Hurricanes Ivan and Emily.
The Tillman Thomas-led NDC government when it came into office in 2008 soon found out that the rescheduled debt payments had to be honoured when they came into office.
The Ministry of Finance, under Nazim Burke, came under tremendous pressure to make the EC$19 million dollar payment to the U.S bondholders in early 2012 and again in September 2012 along with finding the monies at the same time to pay civil servants.
This was the reason primarily for public officers getting salaries late on two occasions.
Congress was too engrossed in internal strife as the Peter David faction battled with the Tillman Thomas/Nazim Burke supporters and failed to explain the grave fiscal situation in the country.
When Dr. Mitchell returned in February 2013, another payment to the U.S bondholders were due in March and the new NNP government took the bold decision not to honour it and instead approach the IMF to help solve the grave fiscal situation facing the country.
Burke and company are expected to try and make a case to the electorate that the NNP programme worked out with the fund is turning out to be a millstone around the necks of Grenadians and that another round of austerity measures are in the making.
The message that Congress will be preaching is that PM Mitchell will have no choice but to take a big political gamble in the next few weeks to call general elections before any imminent retrenchment with the hope of winning and then imposing the second round of bitter medicine in the country.
It appears also that Burke is mindful of a possible ploy by the NNP political leader to allow NDC to spend money on its planned “no-vote” campaign in the referendum and then call the election with the financial resources of Congress totally depleted.
Whatever is the end game, Grenadians can expect some kind of political campaigning in the country when the carnival bacchanal breeze blows away around the middle of August.
Finally, THE NEW TODAY warmly welcome all returning nationals and visitors to the island for Spicemas 2016.
Let us keep the mas clean and to co-operate fully with our law enforcement officials as “we enjoy we thing” called carnival.