Every Grenadian must find the strength to face our truth as a Nation with constructive, critical self-examination. Here is a starting contribution to some of the key issues that must be put on the table and discussed honestly and maturely, and without partisan controversy.
The issues are so compelling and consequential that the time has come to raise a ‘Grenadian Spring’!
‘Soca Boca’ (deceased) never sang at the Calypso Finals, but he composed words drawn from hindsight and ‘tried to sing’, “The inspiration that we need; we not getting it in the lead”! That was a blunt but honest indictment. On the stage competing in the Finals, with the crown in sight, the ‘Black Wizard’ sang these words of foresight, “When de Carnival over; we still need a brighter day”! That was a statement of hope for ‘greater things’; a call to do more.
The point is that our generation has a duty to pour oil into the vessels of national life such that the next generation of Grenadians can achieve even more. Black Wizard’s “brighter day” must include better examples of humility; higher standards of conduct; better and broader governance; growing levels of real production and fairer distribution; more and more people enjoying prosperity and louder public ‘speak-out’.
Then, there must be less dictatorship of the political parties; less idle manpower; less poverty of leadership and less social erosion, among others. How are we going to ensure these things happen?
Remembering ‘Soca Boca’, we must use hindsight to clarify where we went wrong and to prepare us for tomorrow. Celebrating the Black Wizard, we must employ foresight to chart our future course and to stir and raise us for a ‘Grenadian Spring’!
After forty-two years of Independence, Grenadians are able to claim or identify some progress in education and human resource development, health care, infrastructural development, the utilities and the services sector. In this respect, we should all be particularly proud of and speak the praises of Spice Island Beach Resort and GRENLEC, two outstanding business exemplars in Grenada.
Value-added industries using cocoa and nutmegs are also on the right path, as is the fisheries sector. At the same time, we have experienced economic under-achievement, confirmed by persistent and high levels of poverty and unemployment; degraded agricultural production and two Structural Adjustment Programs in twenty years.
The third such Program is on the horizon as the seeds have already been sowed. This is so because while the fiscal algebra is being manipulated with IMF supervision, political wishes and promises, and the production needle, have not moved! So our economic distress will continue! Importantly, the more the economy stumbles, the faster the society weakens and the quicker the political parties hustle with ‘tricks and traps’ in short-sighted attempts at responding to the problems.
One obvious and frightening aspect of our reality is the state of the Grenadian society which is marked by growing decadence and a highly visible, non-productive leisure culture (fast foods, fashion and fun) among segments of the youth population; destabilisation of the family structure and inappropriate and uninspiring leadership in social and political life.
Additionally and dangerously, under-appreciation of the value and role of the Grenadian culture and heritage, give immense cause for concern. These circumstances exist because we have been sleeping for a very long time!
Thinking about a popular and very critical national issue, reveals that we are persevering with a massive mistake in pursuing policies by which more and more millions of scare dollars are thrown behind the youth unemployment problem. The reality is that the public purse cannot fix things, even though it is readily available to the authorities for random use.
In other words, the Government of Grenada cannot simply write a cheque to deliver employment to the twenty thousand young people in Grenada. Highlighting the magnitude of the problem, one realises that investment in hotel plant is the most likely source of new employment in the foreseeable future, given the known shape of our resource base.
Assuming each project leaves us two hundred jobs (direct and indirect), then to absorb ten thousand (50 percent of unemployed) young people there needs to be at least fifty hotel projects! Is there any realistic prospect of that happening?
While spending on the IMANI Program or the Youth Upliftment Program may ease the pressure and generate a ‘feel-good’ political narrative, the political parties are only fooling themselves and misleading the people. A proper and serious response must include a sound migration strategy for educated and skilled young workers and the opening up of new economic frontiers at home.
In fact, the first step towards dealing with the youth unemployment problem is to agree on a national production strategy and to work at it. Regrettably, the Grenada economy has fallen victim to the ‘vote’!
Eh heh! We were all sleeping when these things happened!
Continuing the analysis, one recognises that the responsibilities of Independence were not assisted by a careful socialisation of the Grenadian people in governance, government, development, democracy or service to Nation. Equally, the institutions of the State, including the courts, have not consistently been beacons of hope. This is especially the case with the Public Service, which has actually retrogressed in the last twenty years. A weak Public Service means weak public policy formulation and even weaker public sector management. Grenadians pay a high price where the Public Sector has been put to sleep through an overdose of political pills!
Interestingly, the Grenada Constitution implicitly entrenches the dictatorship of the political parties, which enables those in that industry to give and to take away at will. Put plainly, the people get only what the parties say they are giving! This constitutes a serious problem that needs correcting.
Our experience shows that both businesses and workers are totally dependent on Government spending (taxes, budgetary support and borrowing). Where Government has virtually ‘maxed-out’ on borrowing and where budgetary support is hard to get, everyone feels the pinch!
Having created these uneasy circumstances, we have been groping in the dark; missing, more often than hitting, desirable standards of progress.
Meanwhile, Constitution Reform appears to be a valid template for mapping new directions and reaching desired destinations in a number of areas, especially; expanded governance, strengthened democracy and balanced development. But again we fell asleep at the wheel, entertaining dreams about term limits and fixed date for elections!
Everyone will agree that the Grenada Revolution has left us with an International Airport, important social reforms, including the NIS, a bigger middle class (through University education) and the experience of real patriotism, which moved the national production needle dramatically for its four years. But the ‘Revo’ has also left us with an unreconciled nation; enduring pain of abuses of human rights and knowledge of the unsuitability of Marxism-Leninism as a philosophy of political organisation and development for Grenada.
Other debris of the Revolution, especially the criminalisation of power, provides important lessons for entrenching democratic principles and spiritual values going forward.
We have lost much since Independence, but all is not lost! There are significant opportunities before us to get it right in the key areas of national life. These include exploring new frontiers of economic
development; energy development; proper and purposeful socialisation of young Grenadians (growing a new type of Grenadian citizen); spiritual grounding; cultural embedding and management; higher production and productivity levels; agricultural modernisation and national reconciliation.
While we struggle under the weight of our past and begin to face our future (Plan 2030), a very careful watch needs to be kept on the socio-cultural impacts of the Citizenship by Investment Program, as well as unfolding evidence of Chinese ‘over-presence’, something some analysts describe as creeping colonisation.
Already, these new entrants are impacting the land and commercial markets in unforeseen ways. Unfortunately, we have not even begun to contemplate the need for ‘social shock absorbers’, far less to determine what safeguards are needed. These are serious matters as they are likely to exact an unreasonable price on the Grenadian citizen in return for some economic and financial inflows.
It is one thing for the Treasury to get a bit more in its coffers, but it is quite a different thing for the ordinary citizen to have to make social and cultural adjustments in his own homeland, and to do so from a position of disadvantage!
At the centre of this concern is the role and place of culture and heritage in national development. These two inter-related values constitute ‘the soul of the nation’ and therefore call for special consideration in decision-making. By extension, the management arrangements for culture and heritage by the State should not continue to be put in the hands of vision-constrained people. There is a pressing urgency to recruit top quality Grenadians for these functions.
In many respects, we have spent forty odd years ‘chasing donkeys’, with very little success. The search for a better and higher place is a cause worthy of collective embrace, dedicated effort and resolve to make it happen. Towards this end, ‘sleeping sickness’ must be replaced by responsible action; a ‘Grenadian Spring’! This is not a task for an elitist few or the political parties, but for all the people; patriotic, sincere and determined to ‘spring’ up and to make our own