Speaking up for Grenada

Although it is highly desirable, you are mistaken if you believe that the handful of intellectuals in Grenada owe any duty to the people to grow their understanding of critical issues in the life of the society. But an appeal for help can certainly be made.

Exploitation of the masses is a concept that became very popular in Grenada during the Revolution. One understands that it covers both political and economic relations. Whether the purpose is that of extracting votes or extracting taxes, the intention is the same. Politicians sometimes call in aid those who can convince others as to who they should vote for, on account of their intellectual status and mystique.

When their motive is survival in government, in conditions of severe economic and financial crisis, they call up assistance from those who can manipulate computer models to offer ideas as to how to extract more and more taxes from the people. In each case the victims are people, whether it’s their minds or their pockets.

So the link between politics and economics is really inseparable. This reality helps to explain many things including the availability of intellectuals who may be prepared to sell their ‘high science’ for privilege, access and dollars. But there are a few others who occasionally speak up for the benefit of the public.

Arguably, Grenada is today a society on the wings of social decline. It is unable to rely on the intellectual strength of its sons and daughters to reduce the knowledge deficit and to increase awareness and understanding of events, policies and behaviours. Simultaneously, large numbers are voting just to ‘eat a food’ seemingly unconcerned about anything that might truly lift them out of poverty and dependency.

The Sunday school model of soft socialisation has given way to an Open Prison of selfish practices. Much of the leadership on offer is generally more concerned with power, wheeling and dealing, ego trips and ‘huffing and puffing’, rather than with nation-building, high standards, statesmanship and role model conduct.

One is pointing here to a mentality crisis that is becoming rampant in the land. What else explains the willingness of several thousands of thinking Grenadians who, earlier this year, chose indifference over participation in the electoral process? While they may not be dependent on Government for work, they are surely liable to be dispossessed by Government as it does its’ work in the field of public policy.

So one has arrived at a point in the unfolding Structural Adjustment saga, where ‘intellectual’ Grenada has for the most part shut its mouth and where ‘indifferent’ Grenada will be forced to open its mouth and cry out loud! The exploitation of the middle class has begun to take shape.

Then there is the situation where equitable treatment as a shared value of the society has given way to electoral convenience. The very outlook called a “philosophical position” which caused the problem in the first place, continues to be valued over the needs of the people for real development.

The authorities seem hell bent on cultivating a protected class of citizens, not based on genuine vulnerability, but on voting contribution. Economic efficiency and development are therefore to serve political masters with special needs.

Where are we going? If you had doubts, just pay attention to the emphasis being given to the US$100 million in anticipated support. Ask yourself whether this money will be spent within an economic production model? Ought this not to be at the very centre of the restructuring aimed at achieving some degree of sustainability?

While the private sector is correctly participating in the support work for the SAP, its primary concern does not appear to be the elaboration of a domestic investment strategy. Hitting the nail on the head, the point is that given the existing shape of things, Grenada runs the risk of achieving a ‘paper fix’ of its economic problems only to start a new cycle of borrowing and spending after that fix, unless the production problem is seriously addressed.

If one listens carefully, one will recognise that the official noise is really only celebrating the prospect of a political lifeline to the government. Yet we are hearing no voices from the True Blue academia. One imagines that now is not the time to talk to and to educate the people. There is no invitation forthcoming to attend a public lecture. It seems that it is time to talk and to advise in private.

It is well known that the segment of our population which drives the demand for goods and services in the Grenada economy is the middle class. This is the same group that owns eighty percent of the housing stock (of merit). This is the same group that owns a similar percentage of the vehicles in the country. This is the same group that earns salaries on a consistent basis. This is the same group with the highest percentage of school-age children in the country. So if we are talking income tax, property tax, VAT, user fees, various other levies, etc. this is the same set of citizens who will bear the brunt of the adjustment burden through their pockets. The question is can they realistically and comfortably do so? What will be the consequences if they cannot? What typically happens to a country and its’ economy where the middle class gets over-taxed and over-levied? Perhaps someone at SGU or Marryshow College or some white-collar workplace will step to the podium and give us the answers, publicly.

Can one realistically expect the Citizenship by Investment Program to yield the targeted level of revenues in the short term? As things stand today, one can say that Grenada has to contend with a number of similar products/offers in the marketplace and therefore much will depend on how one’s invitation is differentiated and how attractive it is to meet the competition.

Secondly, it is possible that Grenada could experience degrees of social disquiet on account of the impacts of the SAP. In that event, the uptake of our offer might not be as buoyant as expected. Here again, one needs a word from the nation’s scholars. Is it fair to put this heavy load only on the calypsonians?

Then one comes to the latest battleground, described here as the ‘SACRIFICE WAR’! Strangely, in the face of the most serious national crisis since the murderous collapse of the Revolution, political parties find comfort in propagating intrigue and confusion among the people over who is willing to sacrifice more for Grenada. But this is really a non-issue. Simply put, Grenada needs all the sacrifices its people can make at this time. One should not get bogged down in how much a particular small group of individuals is prepared to give, especially where the motive is not genuine sacrifice but contrived political advantage.

Thinking clearly, there can hardly be disagreement with the perspective that there should be no conditions or pre-conditions for sacrifice. Equally, there should be no competition over sacrifice. If this is sound reasoning, then how it is that political leaders can busy themselves in staging this ‘SACRIFICE WAR’? It tells one that in the midst of a grave national economic crisis, individuals in political parties, numbering less than thirty, are trying to score cheap points with the people when all they can think of is pain.

In some respects, this is the same political instinct that refuses to return Grenada to a PAYE system of income tax. It is equitable. It is fair. It embodies the essence of national sacrifice. It will not impoverish those earning less than $3000 per month. It will not worsen our economic circumstances. It will not lead to a financial crisis. It would not be out of line with the majority of ECCB member countries which have maintained this system of taxation. After all, the structures of these economies are basically the same.

This is a layman’s perspective. Let us have the benefit of a public lecture on these issues by the intellectual class in the society, please. Why not?

THE CONGO PEPPER

 

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