For Dr. Mitchell and his NNP, at once blessed, and burdened with the task of governance – the one, governing without an opposition, the other, problems of managing a resource bare and debt ridden economy – the Ancient Greek mythology of Sisyphus provides good lesson.
Sisyphus, as eternal punishment for having offended the God, Zeus, was condemned to toiling mercilessly, by rolling a rock up the side of a mountain, only to have it roll down again. But in time – definitely not 100 days – and to the surprise of Zeus, the mortal Sisyphus would have come to accept and enjoy the challenge of his task, and go about it with humility.
Sisyphus, despite the hard work, turned a once seemingly impossible task into a passion for performance and survival. For Grenada’s political leaders this should be the lesson of Sisyphus: Overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, with passion, with a determination for survival, and with humility. But which side up Grenada’s steep mountain of economic despair?
Dr. Mitchell campaigned on a promise of having the answers, of knowing the terrain, of having the climbing gears, of being in the best physical form for mountain climbing since his party’s last trip to polls in 2008.
And where resources are found to be wanting, Dr. Mitchell assured us that he has a ready and waiting supply of foreign supporters and investors to help with his climb up the mountain.
The voters (young mostly) became infected with Dr. Mitchell’s brash and infectious dose of optimism. They believed he could, that he could deliver. As double assurance, they gave him unchallenged powers – no opposition – to implement his action plan for the nation’s recovery. And, convinced of his mountaineering skills, they joined him in the Obamaisk chant, “Yes we can.”
With his mandate assured, and papers of commission secured, Dr. Mitchell should begin with immediate dispatch to make good those promises – rebuilding the economy, helping Grenadians get employment, earn money to pay their bills and start spending again.
Let the ascent begin! No easy task though. The economy has been in a tailspin for too long, and Dr. Mitchell has been in office for too short a time – a little over six weeks. But time wasn’t going to be a problem here. For weeks before the election another good doctor and Mitchell’s economic advisor, Dr. Patrick Antoine, laid out in a multi-point manifesto the NNP roadmap for taking the country out of the crisis. How fortunate: two doctors.
Dr. Mitchell, as he is discovering, has a steep mountain to climb. His boulder – the nation’s problem – is as heavy as it is huge. The island’s treasury is empty. National debt continues to eat up 88.4% of National Product. Unemployment (now at about 25%) is inching toward the 30% mark. Civil servants and suppliers alike go unpaid.
Externally, our creditors and alms-givers, themselves reeling from the effects of the global crisis, are being more cautious, less altruistic, less sympathetic and less forgiving.
Given this sobering picture, given the voters’ impatience, some could say that our island’s economy is already in the first stage of economic meltdown.
For already, the first 50-days (April 10th) have gone since they returned the NNP to office. And already, they are observing the NNP being brazenly brisk in backing away from the “100-days, 100-jobs” promise.
No wonder – that backing down. The NNP took over the reins of leadership in a time of near unprecedented levels of economic woes in Grenada. And the Party’s announcement of its 100-day vision for reviving the economy comes at a time when Grenadians are wobbling with anxiety on the crest of a great wave of despair.
One could easily understand the reasoning behind the NNP’s exuberant pronouncements. They were made in the early days of the new administration when party officials were still pumped up with the pride of their success at the polls, and when the sweet nectar of victory was still pulsing in their veins.
So their eagerness to start establishing the footprints of their new administration is understandable. But there is a vast difference between a print and the image it captures. The realities of the economy the NNP has just inherited will soon awaken them from their post victory swoon. And their exuberance, as with a narcotic high, will soon wither.
There are no low-hanging fruits here. The performance of our two booster sectors – tourism and agriculture – remains anemic. Tourism is off by more than 21% from the heyday of 2009 when 459,210 visitors came to our island and 246 cruise ships docked at our shores. And the promises of the agricultural sector, touted as the saviour of our under-performing economy, have yet to be realized. Agriculture contributed a mere 4% to National Product last year.
Whether with shaky nerves, rheumatoid joints or calloused hands, no matter, Mitchell has to climb And he should do so – go about the business of rebuilding the economy – with unusual dispatch and with the same ingenuity and steely resolve, not of the mythical Greek phantom, but of Grenada’s own homegrown Sisyphus, George Brizan.
Dr. Mitchell said he would deliver, climb that mountain. Thousands of hungry, jittery voters, whose long memories he fears so much, heard his promises. Joining them in viewing the spectacle of Grenada’s mountain climbing saga is the mother of all phantoms, the IMF.
And, as George Brizan would have cautioned, the IMF, even more so than Zeus, is the one phantom Dr. Mitchell dare not offend.