I address you on the advent of a new year. A year, that promises to be equally challenging as 2012, but filled with many exciting possibilities. Possibilities for increased economic activities and consequent job opportunities for many Grenadians. These opportunities are opening up as we have laid the basis and ground work necessary for improved economic activities.
The year 2012 for most Caribbean economies can be regarded as one of the most difficult in our lifetime so far. The difficulties and challenges encountered, necessitated bold, creative and innovative responses by our government. Our successes and ability to effectively manage our affairs, reflected significant commitment and resolve by all to make Grenada a better place. For this, as well as a generally peaceful season, we must be thankful to God. I also wish to thank the Royal Grenada Police Force and the Grenadian public for ensuring that law and order prevailed during the festive season.
It is now time for us to reflect on the challenges and successes of 2012 and chart our course for 2013 with renewed hope and optimism.
My administration has over the past four years succeeded in steering Grenada through some turbulent economic conditions and unsettling political waters. Despite this, we were able to focus on establishing an economic base that would propel us into the future.
When you elected us in 2008, it was with the expectation that we would bring a new approach to the political governance and management in Grenada. This we have managed to do despite our internal party challenges. We have set new standards, protected our national assets, avoided corruption and pursued a values based approached to the leadership and management of our country.
I am sure you understand that that change is not an event, it is not instantaneous, but it is a process for which we all must work hard to achieve. We have come this far and we believe the best is yet to come.
In the face of the difficulties of 2012, we called upon every single Grenadian to put aside political and other differences in the interest of our country.
Many of you have rallied to the cause and have placed country first. We applaud you and hope that many more will catch the vision for a long lasting and sustainable development for our beloved home land.
I pledge that our administration will continue to build on the five pillars we have established as the primary basis for the economic advancement of our country.
In Education for example, we have reformed the curriculum focusing on technical and life skills and instituted changes to our scholarship programme, depoliticizing the process, thus ensuring that those who are eligible benefit.
An unprecedented number of teachers now benefit from scholarships to undertake studies leading to first and second degrees. This is intended to result in improved classroom performance.
We have implemented a national free school books programme that benefits every Grenadian child in primary and secondary school, without political flavor or consideration.
We now have universal secondary education ensuring that all students have an equal opportunity and have rebuilt and expanded many schools.
We have also moved to ensure that a University of the West Indies Open Campus will be built in Grenada. All these initiatives are geared towards the provision of opportunities for our young people.
In Agriculture and Agribusiness, our Farm Labour Support programme directly contributed to a 15% increase in our agricultural output in 2012.
Our continued investments in sustainable agriculture as well as market conditions have resulted in a EC $3.5M bonus payment to nutmeg farmers, the biggest since Hurricane Ivan. For this we are thankful.
In the area of Energy, we have signed agreements with neighboring Trinidad and Tobago that will allow us begin enjoying the benefits from our hydro-carbon resources during the second quarter of this new year. This, as well as our renewable wind energy initiative in Carriacou, is in keeping with our vision for the development of our energy sector as a pillar of our economy.
In the area of Tourism, the US $100M expansion plans of the newly introduced Sandals La Source will expand our construction sector, resulting in employment to over 400 of our masons, carpenters and other tradesmen.
When this hotel becomes fully operational more that 90 percent of an estimated 600 of its workforce will be Grenadian nationals.
Additionally, our economy will also benefit from the start of work on the Bacolet Bay development project in the New Year.
Under our Health and Wellness sector, plans are advanced for the commencement of the new national hospital with teaching facilities as part of a private public partnership. All aspects for this project are being implemented.
All these developments will bring benefits to all of our people and we are excited about seeing them through to completion.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Brothers and Sisters, through all of this, we have maintained the safety nets, ensuring that the disadvantaged among us are catered for. As we start the New Year, many projects will start.
We are looking forward to the start of physical work on our new Parliament building, for which designs have already been completed and an architect chosen.
The National Insurance Scheme will begin construction of a new Headquarters soon.
The Greater Grenville Development, which includes the Grenville Market, the Abattoir and the Bus Terminus are well underway, employing about 420 people per day at its peak. I am assured that the Market component of the project is well ahead of schedule. I want to thank the contractors and workers on these three components of the project for the quality of their work.
We are also within sight of the start of the St. Patrick Road Project which will see the development of the main road from Prospect to Sauteurs and from Morne Fendue to Belmont. This is at an advanced stage as notice to tender has already been distributed.
I am also pleased to say that the rehabilitation of more than five additional schools will continue under OFID, the OPEC Fund for International Development, funding.
We also look forward to the delivery of the Chinese houses to over 300 Grenadians in the coming weeks.
Only a few days ago we acted to effect changes in the management of our electricity sector. These changes, the details of which the Minister responsible for energy has recently outlined, will bring additional benefits to all Grenadians.
Ladies and Gentlemen, My administration will continue to work in the best interest of the country. I assure you that as Prime Minister, I am acutely aware of our constitutional provision regarding the holding of General elections. In accordance with that provision, you will have the opportunity to exercise your democratic right and responsibility. I urge you all to immediately register, to participate in the process by which you can choose your government.
As my administration offers itself for another term in office to serve you, we do so with pride and the full knowledge that no one can point an accusing finger of corruption in our direction. We can be trusted. We have managed our country’s resources well and we will continue to ensure that you are the beneficiaries.
The time is now to work for a better, secure future for us and all generations to come. We can no longer sit around and depend on others to give us aid. We have the capacity and resourcefulness to propel us forward. Therefore we must work harder, we must work smarter and we must work together to produce our way to prosperity.
I wish you all a happy new year and may God bless us all.