Grenada and Germany team-up to fight climate change

As a small island state, Grenada is particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts including storms, floods, and droughts.

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety (BMU) is supporting action in Grenada in the development and implementation of a comprehensive climate change adaptation strategy.

In the presence of representatives of national and international institutions, the programme was officially inaugurated on April 18 by the Minister for Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Roland Bhola.

Key stakeholders met April 22 to discuss and decide on essential activities for the next 12 months.

Due to climate change, Grenada must be prepared for an increase in droughts, hurricanes, or heavy rainfall, as well as for rising sea levels.

The overarching goal of the Pilot Programme, “Integrated Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in Grenada”, (ICCAS) is to increase resilience of vulnerable communities and ecosystems to climate change risks.

In his address at the ceremony, Minister Bhola said that “Grenada’s adaptation to climate change must be implemented in a comprehensive manner”.

“Individual and detached activities do not do justice in light of the immense challenge upon Grenada”, he told the participants.

He noted that there were already relevant approaches existing in Grenada but they have been isolated.

At the national level, the programme will support making the vulnerable coastal areas of Grenada “climate-proof”.

An important role for the success of the implementation is the involvement of the local population through a “Community Fund” accessible for tangible, visible adaptation action on the ground.

In addition, the programme will support capacity building in Grenada to gain access to long-term financing for adaptation measures.

Head of the International Climate Financing of the BMU, Norbert Gorissen pointed out the importance of the project even beyond Grenada.

He said: “This integrated approach is being implemented for the first time here in Grenada. The BMU and the Government of Grenada are thus applying new approaches for climate change adaptation, and the insights gained here can be used in the region and beyond”.

During a planning workshop, stakeholders from different ministries, authorities, non-governmental organisations and academia engaged in discussion on concrete activities.

The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety has approved the programme with financial assistance of 5 million Euros (19 and a half million EC dollars) to run until October 2016.

The programme will be jointly implemented by the Environmental Unit of the Ministry for Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

 

 

Only 80% earmarked for Capbank depositors

A total of $500,000.00 has been budgeted by government to pay for small depositors of Capital Bank International Ltd (CapBank) but depositors will only receive 80% of their savings.

Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell made the announcement as he delivered the 2013 budget to Parliament just over a week ago.

“This Budget provides $500,000.00 to address the smallest depositors of Capital Bank. By smallest depositors, I am referring to depositors with savings accounts of $500.00 or less and net of accrued interest and any outstanding loans to Capital Bank”, Dr. Mitchell told Parliament.

He said that by helping small depositors, Government is taking care of 80% of the total depositors of Capital Bank.

Depositors were led to believe that their complete savings of $500 or less will be returned to them, however minutes from the April 09 Standing Committee on Finance revealed otherwise.

The document as obtained by this newspaper said among other things: “Honourable Tobias Clement (Member of Parliament for St. George North-east) asked for clarification on relief for the small depositors at Capital Bank. He inquired whether the monies were to pay depositors under five hundred ($500) eighty percent (80%) of their deposit. The Chairman (Dr. Keith Mitchell) replied in the affirmative”, the report stated.

“The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance further explained that the total depositors at the time the bank was intervened was just over 5000 and the number of depositors that had a savings account of five hundred (500) or less was just around four thousand (4000), so therefore they would recover eighty percent (80%) of their deposits”, it said.

The Standing Committee report disclosed that the Keith Mitchell-led government initially estimated that $1.6 million was needed to pay small depositors.

However, additional work undertaken discovered that only $500,000.00 was needed and this was budgeted for by government in the 2013 Budget of Revenue and Expenditure.

A previous Mitchell-led administration had consistently promised before losing office in the July 2008 general elections that it would make payments to Capbank depositors on the low-end.

Following the February 19 General Election in which Dr. Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) won all 15 seats at the polls, the promise was re-iterated in

The Throne Speech delivered a few weeks ago by Governor General Sir Carlyle Glean who have an undertaking to pay the depositors during the administration’s first year in office.

Last week during the Budget presentation at the Grenada Trade Centre, Prime Minister Mitchell told the House “the demise of Capital Bank International is deeply unfortunate and has brought untold hardship to depositors and creditors”.

Dr. Mitchell said his understanding is that there were 5,126 depositors of Capital Bank, at the time of government intervention in 2008 of which 4,102 are depositors with $500.00 or less.

The bank, operated by Businessman Finton DeBourg, was plagued by controversy since its establishment in 1988.

During its 1990-95 period in government, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite refused to grant a license to the bank to operate based on advice given by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

Unfortunately, the NNP under the leadership of Dr. Mitchell took the bold step to grant the license to Capbank but the ECCB responded by refusing to allow the controversial local bank to use its Clearing House facility.

The bank eventually ran into problems when depositors started to complain of not being able to make withdrawal of their funds.

Attorney-at-law, Anselm Clouden took the bank to court on behalf of a client who was having difficulties in accessing his deposit of just over one million E.C dollars.

In the face of mounting public pressure, the Mitchell government was forced to step in and appoint a Receiver in February 2008 to take charge of the affairs of the bank.

De Bourg was subsequently slapped with four counts of fraudulent breach of trust for allegedly converting $18,227,902.60 of money entrusted to CapBank to himself.

He was placed on bail in the sum of one million dollars and currently awaiting a high court trial before a judge and jury.

The bank has remained in Receivership for the past five years.

 

Let there be hope

From the very outset the theme of the 2013 Budget Presentation was going to lead us down a blind alley. “Restoring Hope” reminds me of the former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas saying “Help is on the way”.

But then of course this is not surprising since the same technocrats who prepared the Tillman Thomas pronouncements are the ones who prepared this 2013 Budget presentation.

The ordinary dictionary meaning of hope is ‘a chance that something good will happen; to want and expect something to happen or be true’.

Our diet has changed from a bowl of transparency and tea in the morning to a plate of hope and coffee.

At this point, I must issue a loud and resounding disclaimer for the avoidance of doubt that my comments are made as a citizen of Grenada without fear or favour and that the day I am not allowed to do so I will quite willingly change my citizenship. I sometimes dream of Nelson Mandela and South Africa.

There are several matters that we as a nation have been procrastinating on for several years of successive governments and it is now time that we put these issues into motion and discontinue the hope.

I have taken the liberty to examine the Budget presentation and to differ with the stance taken therein on several critical issues. The matters I raise below are the more significant ones.

Tinkering with the Value Added Tax is not a solution. The tax should be scrapped immediately and replaced with a genuine sales tax at a lower level, across the board and without exemptions. This should be complemented by making the appropriate adjustments at the point of entry to other taxes and charges. The huge VAT administration structure now in place will be redundant.

It is instructive that the presentation refers to consultation with the private sector on the matter of the VAT and its impact with no reference being made to consultation with the main sufferers, the public.

A programme for immediate WiFi at government buildings and at strategic points around the country does not have to wait on the World Bank Loan under the Caribbean Communications Infrastructure Programme (CARCIP) to commence.

Funds are currently available under other programmes and avenues for the rolling out of WiFi. Once this is done, public officers’ data plans can be restricted to the use of WiFi to save costs.

At the same time negotiations can commence with the existing telecommunications providers for the implementation of Voice Over (VOIP) protocols throughout government which would immediately cut 75% off existing bills with more calls being made.

In the restoration of government buildings the contractor should use solar panels for power as far as is possible. The construction should involve the trapping of rain water for watering lawns, flowers, vegetable gardens, washing vehicles, cleaning the yard and a host of other purposes.

With regard to youth development and the Imani programme, I had an extremely sad experience a few months ago. I had agreed to take in two young ladies from the youth development programme, by what-ever name it’s called, for on the job training. My nightmare commenced when I discovered that they had spent several months in training but none were trained in areas of benefit to my organization.

A limited and unscientific survey informed me that I was not the only employer with that problem. These young people are not being trained for the areas of work that will become available in the new economy.

 

Here are four examples:

 

(1). Film making and movie and documentary production;

(2). Computerized graphics editing and design in television;

(3). Fashion designing and clothes production with individual design styles; and

(4). Repairs and maintenance of electric and hybrid vehicles.

 

The other side of this heart wrenching story is that there are several youths who have spent more than two years in training with no avenues created for them upon completion. Government must lead the way in facilitating ventures into these new, modern productivity areas so as to ensure the natural upward progression of these youths and not a stagnation exercise.

Government should insist that all vehicles bought for its use this year should be green vehicles. Today hybrids, electric, clean diesel and solar powered vehicles are widely available and highly efficient.

There is no reason why the vehicle that runs errands around the town between ministries should not be solar or battery powered. This will immediately reduce the fuel bill.

The effort of the government to implement tablets to replace textbook was mentioned en-passant without much conviction and as an issue to be dealt within the distant future. Other Caribbean countries are way ahead of us in that regard. These countries are in discussions with

e-content providers and hardware manufacturers regarding a phased roll-out.

Now is the time to undertake an urgent review of scholarships being accepted and to match these with the needs of the economy. Retooling must be an essential basis for the new economy.

On housing, care must be taken to take on board the views of the potential occupants for the future developments. The fact that these people are poor and dispossessed does not strip them of pride and ideas. A lack of buy-in and consideration for the living quarters will only lead to ghettoization and rapid dilapidation of the new facilities.

Several countries in Europe have paid dearly for the policy decision to “stack ’em tight and high” only to discover later that widespread demolition of sick buildings is the only solution for monstrosities where nobody wants to live.

Why not share some responsibility from the start? Why is it that the potential occupants were not given title to the property on the condition that they take a small loan to put in their utilities while the government finances the common grounds prior to their occupation?

Clearly it is not too late. My colleagues can still swallow their pride and prejudice and seek to immediately put in place some of the measures that I have suggested with minimum effort within the context

of the 2013 budget and at tremendous cost saving to the people of Grenada.

 

Garvey Louison FCCA

Charted Certified Accountant

CALLING ON THE ‘NEW’ NNP BIG BOYS TO SPEAK OUT!

It has taken no time at all, for Mitchell to put pepper in the eyes of his newly-acquired puppets who stood against him hardly five years ago.

Everyone knows that Peter David, Chester Humphrey and Karl Hood are now in bed with Keith Mitchell. In each case, they had declared that they had specific problems with the party to which they then belonged, the NDC.

After posturing in the Parliament for months, in the case of Karl Hood and for years in the case of Peter David, they both quit the Government that they had helped to establish.

In Chester’s case, he had become sour initially over the Joe Gilbert-inspired stand-off with the Farm Roads Project, even though they do not publicly mention his role in that fiasco. How hypocritical?

We date Peter David back to the debate of the first NDC budget when, without securing his Government’s authorisation, he called for the creation of a Bi-partisan Committee on Foreign Affairs. This particular idea had no precedent in Grenadian politics or parliamentary practice. Some people wondered why Peter wanted to share the foreign policy space with the Opposition NNP.

To have advanced the proposal unilaterally was even more alarming! But, remember that at that time, Peter David saw himself as the de facto Prime Minister. Do you think he will ever tell the public the true reason for that grand stand? Bet your bottom dollar that not even Hamlet will touch the subject on his behalf. This one HOT, HOT, HOT!

Let us establish, as fact, that Peter David and Chester Humphrey were highly influential in having the Free School Books Program among the promises of the NDC in the 2008 elections campaign. At the time, they were both concerned about improving the welfare of the working poor specifically, and the need for education to be established as a right to all Grenadians. On both counts, they were strongly supported.

True to its word, the NDC delivered proudly on this promise; a program which has now become a legacy of the NDC administration, 2008-2013.

Now, today, both gentlemen are on the bandwagon of the NNP in very public and significant ways. Their new leader, Prime Minister Mitchell, has virtually declared war on the School Books Program, but not a word of concern or protest can be heard coming from the lips of Peter or Chester.

Neither have they called upon their mouthpiece Hamlet Mark to spread the word. Actually, he no longer writes and publishes political blogs! And he dare not cause any such ‘blasphemy’ to be published in the CARIBUPDATE Newspaper. In any event, having been richly rewarded by the NNP for his deeds, his services for the purposes of political mischief are no longer available.

But there is Toro. At least he could do the job given his strong working class credentials. Still not a word! If not Toro, then what about Arley? Although he cannot be a third man on the bed between Peter and Keith, he certainly can speak from the floor! He is well known for his ability to speak loudly, if not clearly.

The 2013 budget offered help with uniforms and transportation for needy students, but not the introduction of a School Bus Service as demanded of the NDC by Comrade Chester. Have you heard him complaining and criticising his new master on this matter? No papa, not a single word!

And he can’t say his time is taken up fighting for his job as PRESIDENT-GENERAL-FOR-LIFE OF TAWU. We all know that he can multi-task even though he may consider himself a “techno-peasant”.

Then there is the issue of the National Debt. This one beats all cock fight! Mr Peter David, during his infamous attack on his own Government in 2012, told the world that his biggest problem with the NDC Government was that they were spending too much paying the debt and not looking after the poor people.

Lo and Behold, his newly-beloved Prime Minister has announced that the largest allocation under the 2013 budget, some 41% of recurrent revenue, is going towards paying the debts. Have you heard as much as a squawk from Peter! Is he no longer concerned about the poor in Grenada? What is really going on with this guy?

But the situation gets even more intriguing as just days ago the Government announced that the Prime Minister and the ‘one and only’, Peter David, were going to Venezuela to raise a loan from ALBA Bank. So you see for yourself that Peter is now happy to be putting the country in more debt, and that money is not to feed the poor!

Has he lost his English tongue? Folks always thought he could be bi-lingual.

Hey, muchacho! Something beyond the human senses is going on here. Something big is working its magic in the political lives of Peter and Humphrey! But they have company! The thing now start!

Bring your minds back to Karl Hood’s grand stand during the debate of the 2012 Budget while he was still a member of the NDC Government. Mr Hood openly protested in Parliament and in the media thereafter, that the allocation for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of which he was Minister, was insufficient.

Today, his newly-beloved leader has cut that Ministry’s allocation by 28%, bringing it back to 2008 levels. Boy oh boy! Have you heard as much as a mutter from Hood? Is he not happy to share in that reduced allocation as he will on becoming an Ambassador for the NNP abroad?

Perhaps Karl has so much money in motion that he is contracting to provide his services for no pay in dollars! Maybe payment in kind in the form of the latest model Hummer will be sufficient for him! Why not?

Ah like how we living! We may not live for long, but we sure having fun with the lives of the people of Grenada. Make no mistake about it, cheap politics has just gotten a lot cheaper! And men with money may well acquire a lot more money.

They say politics in Grenada today is about money and sometimes cheap money flows left and right, and here and there and at a blinding pace. It’s the season, right?

 

Money Man

 

 

EC$200 million to be borrowed

One of the first moves undertaken by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell after presenting the 2013 budget is to make moves to borrow EC$200 million in an effort to try and give a boost to the island’s ailing economy.

The NNP-dominated House of Representatives passed the 2013 Budget Loan Authorisation Act, which gives authority to the Minister of Finance to raise the funds.

The bill, which was passed in the House last week Thursday gives the Minister of Finance the go-ahead to borrow specified amounts of money from various sources to reduce the level of unpaid claims in the Treasury, estimated at 93 million dollars.

Government also said that the funds will be used to cover the financing gap for the 2013 Budget believed to be over 100 million E.C dollars.

The proposed lenders include China Harbour Engineering Company, US$5.1million, Alba Bank, up to US$15 million. The interest rates, terms and repayment and fees are to be negotiated.

Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives (HOR), Gregory Bowen said, the intention is to secure financing with the most favourable grace period.

“Financing with the greatest grace period and repayment and also with the smallest interest rate Mr. Speaker”, Minister Bowen told Parliament about the monies that are needed to be raised.

He said, the Ministry of Finance has been given the mandate to go out and get the monies with due diligence, and to only accept the best financing terms for the Country.

With the large amount of unpaid claims in the Treasury, Minister Bowen said, if Grenada gets external financing and some local financing, a significant amount of monies can be paid out.

Bowen said, Government will not be increasing the loan burden/debt on the country, but will be causing monies to circulate in the country; increasing economic activities and bringing benefits to the people of Grenada.

Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has confirmed, that requests have been made to friendly countries and agencies for some resources to meet that obligation.

Grenada’s current national debt stands at EC$2.3 billion.

The island was forced in March to default on a coupon payment of EC$19 million E.C due to bondholders under a Paris Club agreement.

The two-month old Mitchell government has signaled its intention to seek the second restructuring of the island’s debt with creditors due to dwindling revenue intakes in recent years.

 

 

Steele lays out the foreign policy road map

New Foreign Affairs Minister, Nicholas Steele has stressed the need for respect to be shown to Ambassadors and Honorary Counsels when they are recalled following a change of government in Grenada.

Steele made the statement as part of his contribution to the debate on the 2013 Budget of Revenue and Expenditure in which his New National Party (NNP) controls all fifteen seats in the House of Representatives.

In his maiden speech to Parliament following the February 19 General Elections, Steele said although persons serving the country abroad as diplomats have been recalled some weeks after the NNP victory at the polls, this was done with respect, compassion and dignity, mindful of their contributions in their positions.

He pointed out that Grenada should be proud of those who represented their country in every capacity and as Minister with responsibility for Foreign Affairs, he wised to inform that “the process of recalling our ambassadors was done with respect, compassion and dignity”.

“Mr. Speaker the same cannot be said of those who served their country and were involved in the recall in 2008”, he told Parliament.

“If you represent your country with respect and pride, your country should treat you in the same way”, he added.

He did not identify any specific case. However, Steele’s remarks could be seen as criticisms being leveled at former Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter David who was put in charge of the Foreign Affairs portfolio when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) took office after winning the July 2008 general elections.

David gave tacit support to NNP in the February elections after he and nine others were expelled from Congress amidst a struggle for power with then Prime Minister, Tillman Thomas.

In his speech to Parliament, Minister Steele said his ministry would be strategic and innovative in its appointment of Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls.

“It will not be business as usual. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it will be business unusual in the best interest of the people of Grenada”, he added.

The new administration is yet to make public its new set of overseas representatives.

However, expelled NDC former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karl Hood has been telling close aides that he was offered the post of Ambassador to China and would be flying out soon to Beijing.

Hood appeared on the NNP platform in the just-ended general elections.

There are also unconfirmed reports that a diplomat who served under the former NDC administration as an Honorary Consul is also in line to get a diplomatic posting with the new rulers in St. George’s.

A businessman by profession, Steele said that in keeping with Grenada’s foreign policy and international business, his ministry would develop opportunities and creative ways to fulfill its mandate.

The senior government minister stated that while the former Congress government of Tillman Thomas accepted overseas missions spending millions of dollars inappropriately and inefficiently while local ministries such as the Ministry of Health suffered from lack of basic supplies, he will not pursue such a policy.

He said that as a developing country it is always the wish to have representatives serving in all capitals of the world but warned that Grenada with its cash-strapped economy, “we must live within our means”.

Minister Steele said his ministry would pursue Technical Corporation with bi-lateral partners and seek investment for Grenada’s economic and social recovery.

He warned that every dollar earmarked as expenditure in the 2013 Budget must be seen as an investment in the people and that every dime that comes to Grenada has to yield at least one dollar and that every dollar leaving the country through his ministry must yield ten-fold at minimum.

 

We have the billion dollars budget

Although late in coming – but within the time frame in our Constitution – the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, presented the 2013 Budget in the Lower House of Parliament last week Tuesday.

And by the time this is published locally, the Estimates of Expenditure for 2013 will have passed through both Houses of Parliament to become Law; and it is certain to be approved as presented, because the Government controls the majority in both Houses, so no chance of any amendment.

The theme for the Budget as presented is – “Restoring Hope, Building the New Economy and Empowering our people”, and the Prime Minister spent about two and a half hours in the presentation, to a packed Trade Centre which houses our

Parliament since after Hurricane Ivan.

This Budget is really for the next Eight months of this year – and the Prime Minister promised that for the next year’s Budget he will be presenting same in December this year, to take effect for the year 2014.

It will be interesting to hear the comments, or whatever, from the three NDC Senators in the Upper House – especially Senator Nazim Burke, who was Finance Minister for the last Government Four and a half years in control of the State, and of whom the Prime Minister as Finance Minister made many references about his performance.

The figures quoted and the presentation as a whole were impressive and sounded very well – but achieving what was stated is a totally different matter and will not be so easily realised in these times.

As for some of the programs outlined by the minister, towards achieving the Government aims and political ambitions for the next five years and beyond – these did not go down very well with certain sections of the society.

For example many groups and individuals – especially in Religious organisations – have expressed their concerns about the promise made by the Prime Minister to grant Licences to Hotels for operating casinos – even though he stressed the uses thereof will be for foreigners only, and locals will not be permitted to enter those places.

And another area that caused raised eyebrows, was that of Citizenship and Grenadian Passports to Foreign Investors, who are prepared to invest in the tri-Island State so as to create employment.

We are still suffering the inconvenience of having to travel to Trinidad, to attend at the Canadian Embassy in Port-of-Spain, to apply for Visas to enter Canada – even to visit the many relatives and friends we have in that country, who had long ago settled there and made tremendous financial contributions to our economy, and their relatives and friends back here.

And all because, of the wholesale chaos of Grenadian Citizenship, by the current Government then in power from 1995 to 2008, selling Grenadian Passports to foreigners all around the world.

So that people born and living from countries in Africa, Asia, the Far East, Japan, or wherever – they were arriving in Toronto and Calgary in Canada, with Passports showing their place of birth in Hermitage, St. Patrick’s, in Tivoli St. Andrew and elsewhere in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

We are still paying the price for that chaotic and ill-conceived economic blunder, by those then in control of the Nation’s affairs, and now back in charge with no opposition.

I therefore hasten to warn them – to be far more concerned and considerate of our people’s welfare and freedom to travel as seen fit, and to be able to move to other friendly countries, where they can benefit from employment opportunities – as we have been doing for many decades and generations.

Of course we need Investors to come into the State, and help in creating employment for the many thousands of our people who have been without a regular wage-earning job for many years, and our Governments over those years have not been able to bridge that gap, from the little they can collect as Government revenues in one form or another from our people.

Attracting genuine Investors, and giving them adequate Tax Concessions on their profits, should be more than enough to bring them to our warm climate, and very peaceful surroundings in comparison with many of our neighbours.

It is deeply appreciated – that the new controllers are truly concerned about the grave economic conditions now existing in our Tri-Island State; and because the large majority of voters accepted their plans and promises for rebuilding the economy, and in due course providing the employment opportunities for the people to earn a living wage – those in control should not be thinking, nor acting as though everything must happen overnight.

It is all very well to get things done as soon as it is possible to do so – but creating very good standards, and being able to maintain them over long and lasting periods, are just as commendable.

So I caution the new controllers to tread slowly, and with due care and attention as they seek to show up the shortcomings of the lot they replaced so convincingly.

And while I was thinking about the effects of the passports sale to foreigners and how it damaged our relationship with Canada especially – I saw the news on Caribbean News Now of the sudden passing of another regular contributor “Ian Francis” who died in Toronto, Canada on Saturday 13th April.

I always read his Articles and appreciated the effort he put into sharing his ideas with the many readers of Caribbean News Now.

His last Article published on April 10th had a short mention of my own the week before and I intended to respond to his this week, before I saw the sad news on April 19th.

Now there is no point in so doing, and I know a lot of readers of his column will really miss his commentary.

My deepest sympathy go out to his family and acquaintances in Canada and Grenada, and wherever else they maybe.

May He rest in peace.

Britons’ shameful moment

SAUNDERSThe lady was dead. Margaret Thatcher, who dominated British political life and the transformation of a sick economy to a vibrant partner in Europe, was no more. In the words of the Bishop of London at her funeral service: “Lying here, she is one of us, subject to the common destiny of all human beings”.

Common decency should have demanded respectful silence among those who may have been her most bitter political opponents. Regard for leaving Britain a better place than she found it when she took up the cudgels in 1979 should have encouraged expressions of praise and gratitude.

There was much of the latter. She richly deserved it. But, sadly,

there was also much of the former by persons and groups of people –

many of whom were not even born when she held office – who shamed their nation, and their national ethos of fairness, civility and good manners.

The shouts of “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie – dead, dead, dead” as her funeral procession passed through the streets of London blighted the image of Britain, as did all the callous celebrations of her death including the characterisation of her as a “witch”.

The dislike – even hatred – of Margaret Thatcher arises from two principal events. The first is her victory over trade unions – particularly the Miners Union – that held the British economy to ransom with unreasonable demands and costly strikes. The second was her introduction of a poll tax. But it appears to have been forgotten that the economy she inherited as Prime Minister had long been in decline.

In the mid-1970s, shortly before she was elected in 1979, Britain had to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $4 billion of assistance; there were severe restrictions on the amount of money that persons could take on holiday; the tax rate soared to 83 per cent; inflation was high. In short, Britain and the British people were on their knees.

Turning around the dire economic situation would have been tough for any strong man; it was doubly difficult for a woman. Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister she may have been, but nonetheless she was a woman in a government consisting mainly of men from privileged backgrounds for whom women had a place that was not one of leadership. Her battle was on many fronts. No weak person could have taken it on; and certainly no weak woman.

This may have accounted for her tough public style – epitomized by her embracing of the epithet “Iron Lady” which commentators in the Soviet Union had ascribed to her, and also in the famous declaration, “You turn if you want to; the lady is not for turning”. It was easy to dislike that public style and to be vexed over her unyielding “conviction politics” that provided no room for compromise. She was, undoubtedly a polarising figure in Britain throughout her political career.

But, in her time in office, she transformed the British economy. The top rate of income tax was lowered from the high of 83 per cent to 40 per cent; the standard rate was slashed to 25 per cent; bloated and inefficient state-owned enterprises that were an expensive burden on the tax-payers were privatised opening the way for competition, lower costs to the consumer and wider choices – among the state-owned

companies that were privatised were British Airways, British Telecom, British Steel, British Gas and the British Airports Authority.

Privatisation democratised share ownership; shares in those companies were made available to all, including small investors at affordable prices. Thus, it had the effect, not only of relieving taxpayers of the burden of subsidising highly inefficient, loss-making enterprises but also providing them the opportunity to invest and benefit from the companies’ future growth.

There was more, her government openly wooed foreign investment in Britain as a spring board into the European Union market; under her stewardship Council housing was sold to their occupiers or others, giving persons at the lower end of the income scale an opportunity to

own their own homes.

Essentially what Margaret Thatcher did in Britain was to give Britons more personal freedom and less state intervention; she put more money in the pockets of individuals by reducing taxes and she encouraged entrepreneurship; she stymied the power of trade unions whose links then to the British Labour Party compromised its ability to make policy decisions of which the Unions did not approve.

By the time she left office in 1990, Britain was no longer the sick

man of Europe, and its people were better-off.

It is telling that when the Labour Party, under Tony Blair, came to office it was not the policies and practices of previous Labour Party governments that he followed; it was Margaret Thatcher’s path that it walked – extending the policies of deeper private sector involvement in the economy through public sector-private sector partnerships.

A word should be said about two foreign policy issues to which she is closely linked. The first is the matter of the Falkland Islands which

are claimed by Argentina. Apart from the legal case that establishes British sovereignty of the Falklands, Margaret Thatcher respected the

right to self-determination by the people of the Falklands, and, despite opposition from many including influential figures in her own Cabinet, she sided with that right to self-determination, and committed Britain to defending that right. She did not abandon the Falkland Islanders.

And, on apartheid in South Africa, while Commonwealth diplomats in London (including me at the time) were upset that she resisted economic sanctions against South Africa in 1985, she had earlier approved an arms embargo against the White regime, and her loathing of apartheid on moral grounds was well known by diplomats in London.

Regrettably, other considerations – not least her close alliance with the United States and its concerns about communism in Southern Africa – trumped her abhorrence of apartheid, but we knew it would have been little different with a Labour government.

Nonetheless, she was elected three times, and at the end of the day, her stewardship of Britain invigorated the economy and improved the living conditions for many. That record deserved respect. Those

Britons who scorned her in death and celebrated her passing shamed themselves and tarnished their country’s image.

 

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, Visiting Fellow at London University and former Caribbean Diplomat)

“Flogging” Principal now House Speaker

Social Development Minister - Delma Thomas

Social Development Minister – Delma Thomas

The plight of the poor and vulnerable doubled with memories of her childhood days occupied the contribution made by Social Development Minister, Delma Thomas, in her contribution to the 2013 Budget debate.

The Parliamentary Representative for St Andrew North-West touched on the plight of children within her constituency who are affected by lack of resources in her maiden address to Parliament as first timer.

Minister Thomas said that the lack of resources is simple inhibiting children some times from attending school as they are unable to afford a proper meal.

She recounted her own life experience to drive home the need for persons to care for each other in the society.

She recaptured a moment of her past which involved Speaker of the House of Representatives, Michael Pierre, as the then Principal of her primary school and the reason why she now takes her responsibility as a government minister and parliamentary representative in the service of people very seriously.

According to the senior government minister, she grew up as a child living with her grandmother for the first seven years of her life in what can be described as a financially challenging household.

She recalled her grandmother believing in the need for an education despite the fact that she suffered from lack of basic necessities including an exercise book.

“I recall my recent encounter with a man, a man who has affected my life in such a positive way, Mr. Speaker … Mr. Murray from Paraclete. I recalled 30 years ago when I didn’t have an exercise book or a pencil … it was a penmanship exercise book, Mr. Speaker and I recall my teacher saying to me, you need to get it or I will be flogged,” she said.

“Mr. Speaker I was very much afraid of flogging and coincidentally Mr. Speaker you was the principal at that time and you really liked to flog Mr. Speaker”, she told the house amidst an outbreak of laughter as the senior government minister recalled her fright of lashes and the tenacity in which Pierre (the Speaker) was known to flog students.

Unable to afford an exercise book, Minister Thomas told the House that she was so scared of licks from the then principal (Pierre) that her constant crying on her way to school led to a community member giving her the $1 needed to purchase the pencil and exercise book.

“I never forgot that, Mr. Speaker, I (will) remember that throughout my life”, she said.

The new MP for St. Andrew North-west told Parliament that shortly after assuming the new position she had an opportunity to return a favour to a senior citizen who was in need of assistance.

“…I always believe that one day I should be able or will be able to help that man, but not in my wildest dream, Mr. Speaker I would believe that he was the first to come to me on assuming office”, she said.

“He said to me I cannot work anymore and I want you to put me on the public assistance. I was so emotional Mr. Speaker that I said to him, I do not care about public assistance I can help you on my own. I will help you”, the senior government minister told the House.

It is with gestures like this in mind that the Social Development Minister is calling on communities throughout the country to bring back the love, care and community spirit that have faded from society in recent years.

Brushing aside the comments made by many in society regarding the conduct of some young people who believed that all young people want are handout, the MP who can be considered a youth herself, said the young people are interested in a hand-up and not a handout.

“Mr. Speaker as I go from village to village, as I visit the different schools some of the major concerns are our children who are unable to attend school because there is no uniform, our children are unable to attend to school because there’s no food, our children are unable to attend school because they cannot pay the busses”, she remarked.

The female government minister assured the youthful population of the country that help is on the way to them under the leadership of Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Keith Mitchell who has budgeted $24.1 million for the Ministry of Youth and Sports in the current financial package.

In addition, she said her Ministry of Social Development, which has been merged, with the Ministry of Housing will get $1.25 million for housing repairs and a further $5.1 million to provide subventions to various welfare organisations that serve the need of citizens.

Minister Thomas characterised the $1.2 Billion Budget presented last week Tuesday at the Grenada Trade Centre as a very realistic, viable and sustainable package that signals the start to build “The New Economy” as promised by NNP in its campaign manifesto for the February 19 general elections.

 

Sand mining returning to Grenada

Former Minister for Carriacou & Petite Martinique Affairs, George Prime points to the destruction done to a beach on the sister isle due to constant sand mining

Former Minister for Carriacou & Petite Martinique Affairs, George Prime points to the destruction done to a beach on the sister isle due to constant sand mining

Grenada’s two months old New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell will turn to beach sand mining on the island in an effort to boost the local construction industry.

This was disclosed last week Thursday by Works Minister, Gregory Bowen in his contribution to the debate on the 2013 Budget of Revenue and Expenditure.

According to Bowen, sand mining activities will return in at least three locations on mainland Grenada and one for Carriacou and Petite Martinique for better accessibility to consumers.

“The ministry has already engaged our counterparts – agriculture and environment to work with us to identify the areas that we can sustainably remove sand Mr. Speaker, and the intention is to have at least three locations distributed islandwide so that a resident from St. Mark’s will not have to come all the way to St. George but will have an area or a source close”, he said.

The mining of local beach sand was halted in January 2009 by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.

The NDC administration took the decision in the face of pressures from environmental groups, as well as the high cost involved in constructing sea defense walls due to constant erosion of lands near the sea.

However, the high cost of importing sand to Grenada from Guyana since 2009 was seen as one of the major drawbacks to the construction industry as many complained that the cost of imported sand far exceeded that paid locally.

The lost of revenue from local beach sand mining also impacted heavily on the revenues of the state-owned Gravel Concrete and Emulsion Production Corporation.

A group of 55 workers of the corporation last year engaged in industrial actions after receiving letters of temporary layoffs in the face of recession hitting the local industry.

Gravel & Concrete also disclosed that the demand for its products plunged by over 50% in some areas and revenue was constantly on the decline.

The Corporation announced that it was failing to meet its loan obligations and defaulted on a major loan for eight (8) quarters.

The Congress government rescinded the layoff letters and allowed the 55 distressed employees to return to work.

Against this backdrop, the Corporation was granted access last December to remove excess sand buildup in excessive quantities in canals, drains and other areas where sand created challenges for property security or environmental concerns.

The areas permitted to remove sand were the security border fencing at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA), Mt. Rodney Bay canal, St Patrick, Busherie canal, St Patrick, Sauteurs Bay Lagoon, St Patrick and Bathway Lagoon, St Patrick.

Last week’s announcement by Minister Bowen on the return of beach sand mining is seen as yet another initiative by the NNP government aimed at boosting the construction industry.

In the budget presentation, Prime Minister Mitchell who is the Minister of Finance announced a reduction in the Value Added Tax (VAT) to 5% on imported sand, cement, roofing materials, steel, lumber and construction blocks, as well as the forego of VAT on construction services for projects valued at less than EC$400,000.00.

Government also said it was looking at ways to reduce the cost for a load of imported sand from $120 to $60.00 in order to further boost the construction industry.