St. George’s — Dr Patrick Antoine, the chief economic advisor to the new Grenada Government, has declared that the island was open again after the February 19 general election at which the New National Party, led by Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, won all 15 of the constituencies.
Speaking in St. George’s, Antoine said the main challenge facing the new administration would be to raise revenue in the context of the declining economy.
Grenada is planning to achieve higher revenues by reorganisation, restructuring and reform, said Antoine, outlining a proposal to “secure new revenue stream and gain some breathing space by debt restructuring and reorganisation.”
He said Grenada planned to renegotiate its entire stock of debt, which amounts to EC$2.01 billion, which gives the island a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 98 percent.
Grenada would also be looking at the possibility of debt forgiveness, Antoine said.
On the expenditure side, he said, the new administration had to find ways to reduce the island’s expenditure.
He added: “In the manifesto, we are committed to cutting the indirect cost of government by 15 to 20 percent,” which includes most items of recurrent expenditure except for wages and salaries.
Among the items of expenditure that the incoming government would be looking to cut, would be building rental, travel, goods and services.
He said Grenada would not reduce social spending since that was low on the island.
The IMF concluded in July 2011 that public expenditure had fallen significantly, in both real and nominal terms under the Congress government of Tillman Thomas, from its 2007 level under the then NNP regime of Dr. Mitchell.
Antoine said the third plank in the economic policy of the region’s newest government would be to generate growth.
“We need growth, growth, growth. Grenada needs job-enhancing growth. Unemployment here stands at between 45 and 47 per cent, depending on who you speak to,” he said.
One of the ways in which NNP planned to grow the Grenada economy was by encouraging foreign investment and one of the ways to attract foreign investors was by making investment easier, the economist said.
Antoine added: “Grenada is open for business again. You can quote me on that. We are abolishing the Alien Landholding Licence regime with immediate effect for Caricom nationals. Walk with your cheque and buy land.
“We are also putting a 30-day timeframe for decisions on non-Caribbean nationals to acquire land. Thirdly, we are re-orienting all of our foreign missions with immediate effect. We will structure our foreign missions to attract and secure investment.”
He said Grenada was heavily dependent on tourism and as part of what the manifesto referred to as the “new economy,” the administration was planning “a very strong focus on new tourism,” in which the government would target tourism clusters, such as dive tourism, the attraction of cruise ship passengers to the island and yachting.
The island would also be pressing for “clear ties” between tourism and agriculture, said Antoine, with a focus on the new agriculture which involved pursuing wealth creation opportunities along the value chain.
Antoine said the sale of the Grenada government’s stake in Grenlec, the island’s publicly listed electricity monopoly, was a special subject.
He said while the NNP had no position on the sale of a majority stake in the utility by a Florida-based company to a Canadian firm, “it will occupy much of our attention in the near future as we try to see what are the opportunities to maximise Grenada’s position, without prejudice to what was agreed before.”
He also said the government would be looking at a “serious privatisation thrust.”
Of his own future in the Keith Mitchell government, Antoine said he was chief economic advisor to the Opposition, is chief economic advisor to the Government and the “Prime Minister will add additional portfolios and responsibilities as he sees fit.”