Business activity in St. Andrew’s is slowly grinding to a halt, and according to a former Parliamentarian and Government Minister, Sylvester Quarless, the situation is bad due to high unemployment, and the fact that the key agriculture sector is on a low profile.
Quarless, a former Government Information Officer, won the St. Andrew South-west seat in the 2008 general election but lost it in 2013 to current Tourism Minister, Yolande Bain-Horsford.
Appearing on a Radio Talk Show Programme, the former Social Services Minister painted a bleak picture about the economic downturn that has taken place in the rural economy over the past two years under the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Quarless who is also a small businessman cited the number of businesses in St. Andrew’s that have closed their doors since the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration was routed 15-0 at the February 2013 poll by NNP.
He told the host of the programme that in the past 26 months of rule by the Mitchell-led government, two banks in Grenville – RBTT and Scotiabank – have closed their doors, while CIBC First Caribbean International has signaled its intention to close operations in July.
He said that among the other private sector concerns that have ceased to exist in Grenville are 21 small businesses, four beauty salons, three barber shops, and 21 outlets from among the four small malls in the Big Parish.
According to Quarless, the closure of the two banks have brought hardships on the people of St. Andrew’s who are now forced to travel to St. George’s to carry out their financial transactions.
The former Government Minister chided the NNP Administration over what he said was its lack of concern towards the dire economic situation existing in the island’s largest parish.
He described as “not truthful” the claim being made by the Mitchell-led regime that it was able to provide some economic relief for the people of Grenada.
“From my vantage point, from where I sit this is not so, “he quipped.
Agriculture was once considered as the leading sectors within the Grenadian economy, with St. Andrew’s widely regarded as the “Bread Basket “of the island.
However, Quarless said the agriculture industry in St. Andrew’s is now at an all time low.
“The rural economy is on a downturn, and no one can say differently,” he remarked.
The former Government Minister also touched on the state of employment in rural Grenada.
He stated that in the next couple of months approximately two thousand school children will become job-seekers and there is nothing on the horizon for them..
Quarless said that since going into politics on a full time basis, he decided to handed over their operations to his children, and recently one of his daughters informed him that one of the businesses received 189 applications for a job vacancy.
“I can tell you, it (job creation) is grim, the situation is (looking) bad,” he added.
The ex-government minister charged that the moral of the people in St. Andrew was very low, and it is the responsibility of politicians to engage them and provide some form of hope with meaningful plans that can mitigate against the downward spiral of the economic situation.
He accused the NNP ruling party of selling the people of Grenada a candle stick for leaven bread in a white basket covered with a cloth.
The former Parliamentarian also cited two examples of gross political patronage being undertaken by the Mitchell-led government.
One of the areas he looked at was the Grenville Market which, according to him, when construction was due to take place, 199 vendors both in and around the market were relocated to the Nutmeg Pool with the intention of giving them first priority to get a stall at the refurbished market.
Quarless said that ten percent of those vendors who are now stationed at the market are not original vendors.
The other area of discrimination that was cited was in the distribution of the low income houses in Soubise, St. Andrew’s as a gift to Grenada by the Government of China.
Quarless said that the Mitchell government has quietly given some of the houses to NNP supporters while the intention of the housing development project was to put them into the hands of those people in the Soubise area who are considered as vulnerable and needed to be relocated from the sea coast.
He spoke of doing a walk-a-bout in the area recently and discovered that no one from the area was provided with a unit, while there are people from other areas living in them.
He pointed fingers at an individual who previously resided at La Fillette, St. Andrew’s and who was also given assistance to build a house but now has keys for one of the units.
“When you look at the profile of the persons who are given access to these apartments and houses in Soubise now, they have nothing to do with the environmentally-exposed persons at Soubise,” he said.
The former Parliamentarian called on Grenadians to get registered to vote in the next general election since regime change was the only way out of the current dilemma facing them.
Quarless re-iterated that those who are not registered to vote cannot make a meaningful contribution to have a change in the current administration.
General Elections are constitutionally due in Grenada in 2018 but are widely expected to be held sometime between 2016 and 2017.