“A better quality of life for all and sustainable jobs”.
This is the promise being put on the table by Founder and Political Leader of the newly formed Grenada Progressive Movement (GPM), Terrence Forrester during the official launch Monday night of his campaign to contest the South St. George constituency in the upcoming general election.
The launch was held block-o style in the village of Monte Toute in Grand Anse, which is considered to be one of his strongholds in the constituency.
Although the gathering was not large in numbers, Forrester, who founded the political organisation in June, after parting ways with the ruling New National Party (NNP) after Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell did not sanction his request to contest the seat, said he is not troubled by the physical turnout of the small gathering.
“…The fact remains (that) the community is so tight-knitted (and) the homes are so close…people were in their verandahs, their homes et cetera, so there is no need for them to really come on out because they were enjoying the comfort of their homes and just taking in the meeting”, he said.
In his over 2-hour address, Forrester heavily criticised the manner in which the country was being governed over the years and promised that a GPM administration would “shake up” things to eliminate poverty and provide sustainable employment in the country.
Pointing to the high unemployment rate in the country, Forrester contended that governments over the past 30 years have blatantly ignored the productive sectors of the country, which he attributed to the high unemployment and high poverty levels in Grenada.
“We are going to have real serious sustainable jobs…We believe that we need to look seriously at our productive sectors – Agriculture, Tourism, Fisheries and Manufacturing – which we have abandoned in a serious way over the past 30 years …”, he said.
“… As a result of that (the abandonment) our people are suffering, our farmers are suffering, employment in those sectors are significantly down because there is just no opportunity and the government has shown no interest whatsoever and not just this government, governments after independence showed very little interest”, he added.
According to Forrester, the only regime that showed interest in the key agriculture sector was the short-lived 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of slain marxist leader, Maurice Bishop.
He said the recent provisions of the Mitchell-led government in the Supplementary budget in July is testimony to its lack of commitment to the agriculture sector.
He noted that less than half a percent ($344, 000) was allocated to agriculture in the budget, tourism get less than a quarter of a percent ($144, 000).
In addition, he said that the 2018 Budget which was presented last month was not different as agriculture was once again ignored as it got a mere 2.2 percent ($22M) Tourism (2.4 percent) or just about S24M.
Describing the figures allocated for the productive sectors as a “miserable effort,” on the part of the NNP administration, Forrester pointed out that “the police got (an allocation of) over $50M,” and asked, “How do you explain this? It is mind boggling,” he said.
Forrester stressed that neglect for the productive sectors like agriculture, tourism, fisheries and manufacturing is the main reason why the country is struggling financially and pledged that “any government that I lead under the Grenada Progressive Movement will pay serious attention to our productive sectors”.
He told the gathering that this strategy would be used to create sustainable employment in the country.
According to the political figure more that 40 percent of the housing stock in the country still do not have inside bathroom and toilet facilities.
He said that according to information contained in the 2017 Poverty Assessment, which he accused the Mitchell-led NNP administration of hiding “most of the homes in Mont Toute don’t have interior toilets.”
Noting that when it rains you get (it gives off) quite a smell,” Forrester promised that a GPM government would “mandate the National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) to immediately start putting in flush toilets and let them (the beneficiaries) repay about $10 monthly for a period of about 10 years or until the debt is repaid.”
He also spoke of an issue where persons have reported to him that the community centre in the village that the current management has been asking persons to pay monies to use the facility.
“This is a situation that I would definitely have to look into because … that is illegal. No money ought to be paid to anybody except to the Treasury,” he declared.
In terms of addressing the flooding issue in the Grand Anse area, especially when there is heavy rainfall, Forrester spoke of purchasing a “sump pump” to pump the water out of the flooded areas into the sea, an idea, which he said came about during a conversation held with a Water Engineer while visiting Holland sometime last year.
“So, you just have to put a little house in the end by Spice Inn there, have the pump and maybe ask Spice Inn management team whenever it rains heavy just put on the switch and pump the water out,” he suggested.
Forrester also commented on the recent development of conflicting interests between the Government and the Grenada Electricity Services Ltd. (Grenlec), stating that “the Prime Minister should have handled himself much more diplomatically,” as the law does make provisions for government to extract funds from the energy provider but it ought to have been done in a much better manner.
“It is sad that our government had to go that route, notwithstanding that the 1994 Act gives the government the right so to do. It was never done then until now and it is my opinion that there ought to have been a better method of going about it because it does not engender confidence in foreign investors that the Prime Minister of the land would go into Parliament and disgrace a foreign company.
“That’s not how you do business…it could have been handled much better. We need to show respect, integrity, leadership and good example to our people and to foreign investors.
“In other words, an investor considering Grenada at this point in time would say to himself, you mean this is the kind of arrogance I would have to put up with in the future … so it doesn’t show our country in a good light.
Forrester also touched on the issue of the national debt, the actual figure for which the Mitchell-led NNP government has withheld from Grenadians.
He said: “He (Prime Minister Mitchell) had been called upon over and over again to provide that figure and he just totally ignores the people of the land.
“The Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Integrity in Public Life Act all calls for integrity and transparency in all government business. This is not NNP business or Keith Mitchell business. This is our business,” he added.
According to Forrester, if one does not know what the national debt is then how can anyone correlate what the Prime Minister is allocating for the respective sectors are adequate or inadequate.
“He (Dr. Mitchell) refuses to tell the nation what the situation is… I just find this is tantamount to criminal conduct. Unfortunately, our laws and our acts of Parliament do not state that a politician shall be charged in a court of law if he breaks the law,” he remarked.
Speaking with THE NEW TODAY following the official launch of the party on Monday night in which he only presented himself, Forrester affirmed, that he is “presently talking to several individuals who have expressed interest in joining with me and therefore we (are) continuing our dialogue to see how we can find common ground so that we can unite as a team to move forward in order to fight the upcoming general elections.”
He said he is “continuing to work in the South,” and expressed optimism and “trust that the people of the south would have the confidence to elect me as their representative because I intend to shake up, not just in the south but the whole country”.
“We need a paradigm shift in Grenada. This boast of 4.5 percent in economic growth, we need to (use it) to fight poverty and unemployment,” he added.
Forrester also made a brief comment on the two other major candidates gripped in the battle for the South – Health Minister Nickolas Steele and the candidate for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) Raymond Roberts.
“I think they are good individuals, but I am better than them”, he said.