Grenada’s home grown structural adjustment: Fiction or troubled reality?

By Arthur Kallick

By Arthur Kallick

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell delivered his much anticipated national address on October 30, 2013. The address started off with self-characterizing reference as the “Chief Public Servant” a term never before used in his political career. One wonders if that was a form of psychological preparation in anticipation of the pay hike for ministers based on public sector wage settlement.

In my previous commentary prior to the address, reference was made to the prime minister’s strategy of “drip disclosure”. The speech proved beyond reasonable doubt that the assessment is and was correct.

The main objective of the address was to announce a major policy reversal of reduction in the income tax threshold. Undoubtedly, this would have been a painful moment for Dr Mitchell, as the promise to raise the threshold, if elected, in 1995 was pivotal to his electoral victory. The rest of the speech was pretty mundane.

Observers say that this measure is only the “tip of the iceberg” as the rumoured increase in property tax was not addressed. User fees are being addressed on the stealth. One such example is the proposed enactment of an embarkation tax by Parliament, which will result in an increase from $1 to $20 for persons boarding ships in Grenada travelling to other destinations.

The prime minister confirmed that the “Letter of Intent” was not finalized, as he again reiterated that the austerity programme is “not an IMF programme” and it is a “programme of Grenadians for Grenadians”.

He went on to gloss over the real reasons why the country is in this predicament, by saying that “Grenada’s public debt includes the borrowings of all governments”. This statement is as factual as it is deceptive. He sought to distract the public gaze from the fact that the crux of our debt problems is the borrowings contracted at commercial rates under his watch. “We can affix blame or fix problems,” he argued; however, the two are not mutually exclusive.

The permanent secretary in the ministry of finance, in a presentation to the social partners, said that a national consensus is a “critical success factor” for the austerity programme. Can Dr Mitchell provide the requisite leadership required, at this time, to achieve this? The approach to governing the country since his re-election does not help. The severing of thousands of persons who they believe are non-NNP supporters within the state sector has wreaked havoc on the income base of many families. The attempt to link success or failure of the austerity measures to the resolution of the wage bill issue has infuriated some trade union leaders. This thinly veiled attempt to scapegoat the unions is not a way to build consensus.

On Friday last, the nation learnt that the Cabinet approved a 6% pay hike for ministers of government. My initial reaction to the news was one of disbelief. Impossible, I thought. I had just read in the prime minister’s address where he pointed out: “I ask the labour unions to exercise restraint in respect to wage demands.”

The pay rise for the ministers comes against the backdrop that, on assumption of office, the NNP reversed the 5% wage reduction for ministers, which was implemented by the Tillman Thomas-led administration. The reaction of the unions is understandably hostile, as the call for sacrifice should apply to all, our leaders included. This action has the potential to derail the process of engagement with the social partners. Reports indicate that this measure does not enjoy majority support.

The June 2013 Economic and Financial Review, which was conducted by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, indicates that the government’s decision to suspend interest payments as a result of the declared debt restructuring intent is the main reason for the reduction in expenditure in the first half of the year. This means that the government has not paid $7.3 million of interest payment on debts, which continues to accumulate. At this time, this writer does not know if there are any applicable penalties for default and or late payment of our debt obligations.

The “home grown” package is still to be completely defined and time is running out. The budget is expected in the next few weeks. We do not know whether the measures to be implemented will allow for a significant turnaround in the next three years. Drip disclosure will only add insecurity and undermine confidence. We the people will have to wait for the next national address to know, finally, what will be the new property tax rate and which user fees will be increased.

There is no doubt that sacrifice is required to get the country out of the current economic mess. Our leaders must do what is right and they must lead by example. Every citizen must contribute to the national effort. Why must public servants, wage earners over $3,000 per month and businesses bear the brunt of the austerity measures? If the lowering of the income tax threshold is a significant component to government’s revenue raising initiatives, then why should we not use the experience of the Debt Service Levy or for that matter the National Reconstruction Levy?

Moreover, the nation accepts that everyone should make a sacrifice, but on the surface it seems that fewer than 20% of wage earners will feel the direct pinch on their pay packets. Is that fair, or is it that equity is not in active consideration?

Dr Mitchell is acutely aware of the numbers game. He seems hell bent to his political base, largely believed to be low wage earners, from the austerity measures.

Towards the end of the address, the prime minister said, “When I took the oath of office, I took a solemn pledge to put Grenada first.” It is high time that he does.

 

Arthur Kallick was born in Trinidad and lived in Grenada until he moved to Canada in the late 1980s after completing secondary school. He has a Master’s in family counselling and child physiology from the University of Toronto. He is now a freelance writer and has been living in Grenada for the past six years, and at present works with Caribbean Family Planning unit as a counselor.

Seeking new partnerships for education in the Sister Isle

Building new partnerships for the development of education in the twin isle parish of Carriacou and Petite Martinique is the aim of Area Education Officer for Carriacou and Petite Martinique, Rosalina Patrice-Lendore.

Speaking at the annual Michelle Coy Reading Competition, Patrice- Lendore made a special appeal for organisations, stakeholders and friends of Carriacou and Petite Martinique to partner with the Education Division through the provision of incentives.

She said this is even more critical as they seek to assist the needy or slow students.

In addition, assistance is also needed in areas such as Mathematics, Science and Music.

Observing the display by the Shakespeare Mas players from Mt. Pleasant Government School; Senator and Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Carriacou and Petite Martinique Affairs Jester Emmons noted that the time is right for the harnessing of the talents of the nation’s youths.

It is hoped that organisations and individuals will come forward to make a positive difference in the education system on the sister isles.

PM Mitchell denies bringing in bullet proof vehicle

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has brushed aside reports circulating in the country that he has brought in a bullet proof vehicle for use.

Speaking to reporters at a press conference in St. George’s, Dr. Mitchell said that only “a skewed type of individual” will make those allegations against him.

“You see that, the type of thing that in fact is the mindset of a skewed type of individuals in the country”, he said as he responded to the allegations during a post-Cabinet press briefing.

“Some of these things (are) so far fetched they should not reach as far as they reach if we had a more discerning media and public, because for something to be so absolutely false with no justification at all,” he added.

Dr Mitchell who is also the island’s Minister for National Security stated that he rejected suggestions made by some persons around him that he needed a new vehicle like in 2008 when new vehicles were brought for his successor in office, Tillman Thomas of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

“…It was suggested (but) I say not a new vehicle, I’m driving the old vehicle period. The country’s not in a position to support this … now…”, he said.

“…If somebody can give us a new vehicle of course I will take it and we’ve asked some of our friends out there from the international community.

“…We want a vehicle for the Governor General cause the one she has is very uncomfortable for her, but we don’t have the money to buy one.

Prime Minister Mitchell dropped hints that he intends to use the vehicles that he inherited from PM Thomas in light of the current’s financial predicament.

“My dear lady (female reporter), the financial situation cannot afford it at this time but if somebody will give us, we will take, but even if they give us a bullet proof I would not take because what I doing with bullet proof?

“You all know me, you all know me. I like to walk around by myself. My security some times get very worried about me. I like to go to my Constituency without security because that’s not me (going in bulletproof vehicles).

“Even when I was in Opposition and they (the opposition) were threatening me to jail me, to beat me up, I used to walk around and have me little Juper (vehicle) with me, 109, you remember that? And walk the streets and I felt comfortable. That’s me, that’s my life, and you will never see a different person in Keith Mitchell. Politics would not change me. Bullet proof … we in the Middle East?”

 

Kayak wins lotto prize

Presentation of cheque to Marsha Gay by board member Atkinson Felix

Presentation of cheque to Marsha Gay by board member Atkinson Felix

Thirteen (13) months ago she started to play two of the six games offered by the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), Super Six and Lotto.

Today, Marsha Gay, a mother of two boys, is $86,000 richer having chosen the winning numbers in the Lotto game two weeks ago.

Gay said she missed winning the Super Six games in December 2012 by one number but continued to play every day using special numbers associated with her life.

The winning ticket was purchased at a shop operated by Agent Frances Alexander in Hillsborough.

Gay was presented with her winning cheque by NLA Board member, Atkinson Felix who congratulated her and encouraged her to continue playing.

The lucky winner said she has no special plans for the money at the moment.

Felix was accompanied to the cheque presentation ceremony by NLA employees, Finance Manager, Richard De Allie and Marketing Assistant, Amilcar George.

The National Lotteries Authority is celebrating twenty (20) years of terminal games this year and supports a number of cultural and sporting events on the island which includes the Parang Festival and the annual inter island secondary athletic meet.

Politicians and squatters

For too long the politicians have been giving signals to squatters in order to gain political mileage to squat on state lands, throughout the length and breadth of Grenada.

These persons have squatted on so many government lands including prime lots, which could have been used for serious business development that could have benefited us as we fight for economic independence and food security but on the contrary leaving much of this country’s deprived of its most important natural resource .

Today squatters in Grenada have gotten away with such disregard for law as it relates to the squatting of state lands, which cannot happen in most Caribbean islands to that magnitude.

At present, Guyana and Antigua are seriously taking a no nonsense approach, in addressing this menace by removing squatters from state lands.

Grenada is only 21 x 12 miles 344 Sq. Kilometers and Grenada’s Crown land stock has been dwindled from approx. 94,000 acres to just about 30, 000 acres today.

If we continue with this practice, Grenada will be left with limited foreign investment options as it relates to lands scarcity.

We are only hurting this country and its future development as a nation, in a serious way, thanks to some short-sighted politicians who turn a blind eye to the problem of squatting.

Up till now Grenada does not have a serious land use policy in place or being enforce if there is one .

Government should have recognised this serious social problem and addressed the situation a long time ago by constructing low income houses.

I say this although I have observed that some of these houses have been built or contributed by the Venezuelans, but it is totally inadequate.

This problem with squatting is a burning issue that must be given top priority. Let us take a serious look at the Squatting problem!

For example, Pearls Airport where some of the most priceless artifacts have been vandalized and sold on the street corners by squatters for erecting their houses.

This problem should have been quickly addressed by the our heritage/cultural foundation to ensure the preservation of our indigenous people, which may never be recovered on another part of the island.

This heritage should have been stored at the national museum since some of these artifacts are dating back to approx.. 700 A.D.

Let us look at the most prevalent squatting zone which is in the south of the island precisely Frequente in the Grand Anse area.

While I do understand that squatting is a serious social problem and not just in Grenada but in almost every other place in the world, but in Grenada this is much more tolerant .

The island is just too small for that, and we have to seriously think of the generations to come, who will be limited when it comes to land resource.

Imagine that I was talking to a squatter who told me that all lands is Jah Lands – these people have no regards for state property ,law and order ,- and that speaks volume to me.

In retrospect, we have to remember that it is squatters and the informal and illegal settlements that breed slums which in turn breeds crimes thus contributing to social problems, costing the taxpayers millions of dollars.

It should also be noted that in most cases, squatting is encouraged by politicians who do not understand their true role when holding public office as political directorate and policymakers.

It is time we get out of petty politics and take this country forward in the best interest for all Grenadians, inspite of race, class, color, or political affiliation.

We need to break the cycle of political tribalism and genuinely advance this country, irrespective of which political party you may choose to support.

 

Kennedy Jawahir 

LIME launches Dealer Store in La Tante

Photo showing the La Tante Dealer Store

Photo showing the La Tante Dealer Store

LIME has launched its third dealer store in Grenada at Beggs Enterprise in St. David’s.

The official opening took place on Friday, November 15th, and was attended by the Parliamentary Representative for St. David, Economic Development Minister, Oliver Joseph as well as LIME artistes, Royal Loyal Customers, LIME staff, among others.

The dealer store located at La Tante, is the first in the parish of St. David and will provide all the services available at LIME retail stores.

The business will allow customers in and around the La Tante area, to pay their fixed line, mobile and broadband bills; top-up their phones; sign up for service; purchase world talk cards; purchase mobile devices and sim cards as well as purchase computers.

Addressing the audience, Minister Joseph said a LIME dealer store in the area was long overdue, and encouraged other corporate enterprises to follow suit in the parish.

Minister Joseph, also applauded LIME for selecting the La Tante community for the initiative stating, “LIME couldn’t have selected a better community for this project, La Tante; a central location that’s well populated.”

In his remarks, LIME’s General Manager, Angus Steele said the dealer store would make a great difference to LIME customers in the area.

“The opening of today’s store is of great significance to LIME and the people of St. David, as it eliminates the need for our customers in and around the La Tante community, to have to travel to neighbouring St. George or St. Andrew to access LIME’s telecommunication services”, he remarked.

Steele also provided insight into some of LIME’s plans for 2014.

He said, “For the New Year, the company will introduce two new services to our line-up: LIME 4G – allowing customers to experience the fastest, most advanced mobile network in the Caribbean and LIME TV – providing television services with a heightened user experience.”

The opening also entailed the presentation of certificates to Royal Loyal Customers, presentations of nutmeg plants to farmers, and performances by LIME artistes.

The La Tante dealer store, adds to two other LIME dealer stores on the island – Philbert Brothers Supermarket in Sauteurs and Licks & Bytes in Gouyave.

Is the Grenada minister of tourism short-sighted or does she lack vision?

I read with great interest the article published in the various weekend newspapers supposed to be written by and published on behalf of Tourism Minister Alexandra Otway-Noel. One paper headed the article “Grenada to observe Tourism Awareness Week.” Another: “Hon Minister of Tourism Alexandra Otway-Noel on the Commencement of Caribbean Tourism Day – 2013.”

In the article, the minister talks about the beginning of the cruise ship season and “initiatives to improve the quality of experiences that visitors can enjoy during their brief visit to our shores.” Which I have to say is very encouraging; however, the article went on: “We have targeted the beach cleaners and security personnel to increase their level of understanding of the workings of the industry and the important role that they are required to play.”

I have to ask. Does this minister lives in Ooze or cloud cuckoo land? I say this with the greatest of respect to the minister because whosoever wrote the article on behalf of the minister is either pulling a wool over her eyes (not physically I hope) or is just another pen pusher and doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Dogs are roaming our beaches including Grand Anse and Morne Rouge and dog droppings are everywhere to be seen. The signs that say “no dogs are allowed” are ignored by dog owners as well as our beach patrols – police are nowhere to be seen; those that say: “clean up” are also ignored not only by dog owners but also by the so called beach cleaners and security personnel.

I am suggesting the title of security personnel should be changed to “beach posers” because that is all these people do if they ever go onto the beaches. Pride in one’s job and an honest day’s work is not part of these people’s personal characteristics.

Sad to say, but the workshop experience that the minister speaks about one has to assume goes into one ear and straight out the other or perhaps it just bounces off their body. Pandy beach, noted for its variety of sea shells, is used as a dog toilet by the people with dogs whose property backs onto the beach. These people play totally ignorant to the word “hygiene.”

The whole of the minister’s article seems to concentrate on cruise ships and sadly makes no mention whatsoever of air passengers or anything to help increase the footfall or throughput at Maurice Bishop International Airport. It would be interesting to see the figures of arrivals and departures of aircraft and passengers at Maurice Bishop International Airport from when this present government left office as against the current annual figures.

The short-sightedness of this article on the tourism industry of the Caribbean and Grenada in particular is beyond belief. It is of no help or assurance to the struggling hotels and small business industry and I hope that I will be supported here because, as I see it, while we welcome the cruise ship business with open arms, it has little or no impact whatsoever on the stay over hotel or letting accommodation businesses.

The businesses that accommodate holidaymakers/tourists in the country for a week, two weeks and beyond need positive action by the government and the ministry of tourism in particular to survive.

Austerity measures in the United States and Western Europe were well in place prior to this government taking office yet we had more passenger aircraft landing and taking off, with more people visiting these shores than we are witnessing now. The economic pressures that consumers faced in the United States and the European Union, including high unemployment and foreclosures as a direct result of the banking crisis on both sides of the Atlantic, has eased considerably; consumers in these countries are now experiencing an increase in employment and economic growth. Consumer spending is up in many if not all EU countries and the US, so why is there no reflection of this in terms of activity here in Grenada?

Part of the problem, minister, is the lack of direct flights from Europe. I know of no direct flight from Europe. The few that come appear to be via other countries. Charter flights (cheap flights) from Europe ceased during the NDC stint in office. And this is where the minister should be putting resources to find out what went wrong with charter flights from the UK (Monarch) and Condor from Germany.

The cheapest flight from the UK is nearly £600. Consumers are just not prepared to pay this much for a week or two in Grenada, so they fly to other destinations in the Caribbean by charter flights at roughly two-thirds the cost.

Before the last government left office both my wife and I would fly here for just over £600 return for the both of us; today it cost us over £1,200-plus and we have to come via another Caribbean island. Admittedly, there is additional UK government tax, which is cleverly referred to as Air Traffic Passenger Duty, but still one only has to go onto certain websites to see the cost of return charter flights from the UK to Tobago and, incidentally, it is the same flight that went to Tobago up to a few years ago via Maurice Bishop International Airport.

It is time this minister got on her bike and takes what action is necessary to restore charter flights from at least the UK and Germany to this country because the spin off is enormous – airport tax; the benefit to the transport industry; the hotel industry; retail industry and the leisure side of tourism.

God knows Grenada needs it and with St Vincent building a new international airport, Grenada needs to get its act together, if only to stay ahead of the game.

 

Winston Strachan

 

Leaders in self-denial as Caribbean economic crisis worsens

Lloyd NoelSt Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony says that there is a grave economic crisis gnawing away at Caribbean countries and “governments are busy looking inward – each busy with their own agenda rather than pursuing a Caribbean solution to the economic crisis”. Not for the first time Dr Anthony has dared to tred where many other Caribbean leaders have shied away.

Describing it as a “tragedy of the times”, he charged that governments are “engaged in one form or another of self-denial” while the Caribbean is “in the throes of a major crisis like it has never ever experienced before”.

Dr Anthony did not say something not previously said by regional commentators, foreign aid agencies and multilateral institutions. But now it has come from a Prime Minister who was previously Legal Counsel to the Secretariat of the 15-nation Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) and, earlier, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies deeply immersed in the many challenges and limited prospects of small States.

His remarks, therefore, come with a special authority and should be a reality jolt for all Caribbean leaders in government, opposition political parties, the private sector and the labour movement.

Dr Anthony’s comments are of greater significance because they were a spontaneous response to a question after a lecture he delivered on “Education in the Caribbean” at the Barbados campus of the University of the West Indies on 29 October. In this context, his observations have to be regarded as coming from that inner place in the soul that confronts reality when all other options have been exhausted.

Dr Anthony has sounded these alarm bells before. Almost a year before on 31 October 2012, he had spoken similarly to the Barbados Chamber of Commerce when he said: “Make no mistake about it, our region is in the throes of the greatest crisis since independence. The spectre of evolving into failed societies is no longer a subject of imagination. How our societies crawl out of this vicious vortex of persistent low growth, crippling debt, huge fiscal deficits and high unemployment is the single most important question facing us at this time”.

With the exception of Trinidad and Tobago where oil and gas revenues keep the economy buoyant, and Guyana with its broad agricultural and mineral base, the economic picture of the majority of CARICOM countries is grim. Yet, some governments try to airbrush from the portrait rising poverty, rising unemployment, rising debt and declining economic growth.

The few encouraging words in country reports of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are inflated in government statements to try to conceal the more damaging assessments of the condition of many economies. The objective seems to be to try to persuade their populations that all is well, when all is far from well and to convince people against the reality of their own day to day experience.

In almost every country, except Trinidad and Tobago (37.30% ) debt to GDP ratios are high and expenditure on education and health has declined either in real terms or as a proportion of governments’ total budget.

Generally, Government debt as a percent of GDP is used by investors to measure a country’s ability to make future payments on its debt. When debt is high in relation to GDP, the country’s borrowing costs and yields from government bond are adversely affected.

Worryingly, a UNDP report says: “There is a recent trend amongst several Caribbean nations of domestic debt increasing as a percentage of their total debt burden. Large amounts of sovereign debt are typically held by domestic banks and a sovereign’s default can often be followed by a domestic banking crisis. This means that shifts in the composition of the debt (from foreign) towards domestic debt can increase rather than decrease debt vulnerabilities for governments”.

Many governments in CARICOM have high domestic debt owed mostly to local commercial banks, and in some cases, to Statutory Corporations. The failure of any of these governments to service their domestic debt or to require restructuring would cause havoc for local savings and also for state-run pensions and health schemes.

While this problem exists in the larger countries of CARICOM including The Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica, it bedevils the sub-regional group of seven territories that comprise the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). These territories and the British dependency, Anguilla, form the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) which has a single currency and a common Monetary Authority that also regulates the Union’s domestic banks.

Dr Anthony shortly assumes the Chairmanship of the ECCB when governments are pursuing insular policies that, in many instances, conflict with stated goals for the fiscal stability of the area. A snapshot of recent reports compiled by the IMF, World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme shows these December 2012 debt-to-GDP ratios in OECS members: Grenada 104%; St Kitts-Nevis 92%; Antigua and Barbuda 89%; Dominica 72%; St Vincent and the Grenadines 70 %.

Dr Anthony’s own St Lucia is the largest economy in the ECCU but the IMF says that “external and domestic uncertainties led to a broad-based decline in activity in 2012” and public debt increased to 78% of GDP.

Given that the members of the OECS already have a single currency and many shared institutions such as the ECCB, the deeper integration of their economies and the establishment of binding decision-making machinery would improve their economic circumstances.

Each government could reduce expenditure through the expansion and deepening of functional co-operation in a range of areas. They could also widen and deepen areas for production integration in the development of their natural resources through cross-border investment and by joint backing of loans raised on the international market for economically sustainable projects in food production and geothermal energy.

But this would call for a greater element of political integration than OECS governments have been willing to undertake.

The picture is no more encouraging on the wider CARICOM front. On the debt-to-GDP ratio, at the low end is The Bahamas at an all-time high of 49.9%, Guyana 60% (but with the second lowest per capita income after Haiti), Belize 78%, Barbados 116%, and Jamaica highest at 147%.

In April 2011 at the very meeting when CARICOM leaders decided to put the development of a Single Economy on “pause”, they had before them a paper, Re-Energising Caricom Integration, produced by a group of CARICOM experts that identified areas of joint investment that could considerably reduce costs to governments and spin-off new economic activity. Three key areas were: agriculture and food sovereignty; renewable energy; and maritime transport. That paper is well worth revisiting as one way of addressing the crisis that Dr Anthony has highlighted.

He is to be congratulated for his courage in speaking up for a second time. A third occasion would be less convincing. Now, action is required by all.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, Senior Research Fellow at London University and former Caribbean diplomat)

 

Is there unity in the camp?

Lloyd NoelIn our struggling and economically desperate Tri-Island state, there is never a dull moment where our Political business is concerned; and the happenings leave onlookers to wonder whether they are mainly pre-arranged, or just the luck of the draw.

The latest news items regarding the announcement of a (6%) six percent salary increase to all the 15 NNP Members of Parliament – and the report a few days later, that 90% of those M.Ps. had decided they were not taking the increase – is a classical case in point of political chaos, and gross uncertainty and mis-management by the Controllers who are in absolute authority.

It is very difficult to imagine, or accept from any source that the P.M. and Party Leader had decided to announce the salary increase, without having discussed the matter with his party colleagues.

On the other hand, the figures of Ninety percent (90%) as against Ten percent (10 %) of the Fifteen M.Ps could be taken to indicate that only the lessor number had prior knowledge.

And even then there is serious difficulty in arriving at the number of M.Ps. forming the 90% and why they waited till after the public announcement to state their objection to the increase and that is why I pose the heading to this article, regarding Unity in the Controllers Camp.

Another strange public display, was the front page picture of the Government M.Ps in last week’s New Today Newspaper but without the North East St. George M.P. Tobias Clement who holds no portfolio in Government.

I know not why his photo was omitted from the list of M.Ps. on display, but I also noticed a letter from someone in his Constituency complaining that he is no where to be seen in the North East.

It is hard to believe that the whole group of M.Ps were not consulted about the increase before it was publicly announced and if they were, then why wait until after the publication to announce their objection to the additional Six percent – the whole exercise looks more like a propaganda scam more than a genuine rejection of an increase.

Since the news about the P.Ms. invitation to the Opposition Leaders to meet with him, we have heard no more about the proposed meeting from either side as to whether they did meet, or the invitation was not accepted, or the date postponed.

But whatever it is, the bigger item on the agenda is the pending Budget Estimates due for delivery on December sixth.

And the number of statements from those in Control, pertaining to Tax Increases whether on salaries or Properties or Sales, these leave many to wonder what is really in store for the people come Budget Day.

The unemployment situation is no better off now than it was before the Elections in February, and from all appearances after nine months of the new Leaders in charge, there seems to be nothing of any consequence that can make any big difference anytime soon.

All the campaign promises of major Investors coming on Board to provide employment remain just that and now the latest offers are of Government Estates that can be Rented by Investors to engage in Farming to help provide jobs.

Except for Nutmegs, in the recent few years since Hurricane Ivan, we do not export Agricultural crops like Bananas and Cocoa to the U.K. and elsewhere overseas and even the other food crops the Traffickers used to trade in to Trinidad and Tobago, these have also slowed down to almost zero.

Against that background, therefore, the hopes that Investors would be willing to Lease Government Estates, to provide employment for the many hundreds of Agricultural workers needing jobs, these are very slim indeed.

I would have thought, that the Government itself will seek the loans from wherever, to re-open those Estates to provide jobs, and hopefully benefit from the Investment for the good and welfare of all our people.

By so doing and producing the fruits and other raw materials, I could then see the attraction for overseas Investors to come calling to process and package those products for export overseas and in that situation our people would be getting two bites of the apple.

We are blessed in these Isles with very fertile soil and hundreds of acres of agricultural lands, and many thousands of people who are used to working in those areas and the emphasis in my view should be concentrated on development in that Sector.

I heard a news item recently that the CCC Roads maintenance project was now back on stream, and the roads workers have been on the job in their numbers for the past two weeks. I certainly hope the news was correct and those workers will be earning a weekly wage well into the New Year and beyond.

Whatever Millions of dollars that will be announced in the upcoming Budget on December sixth, these will not be available for some time to come so that the hard times will be around for well into the New Year, unless the Government succeeds in getting a loan to get the Economy up and running again.

It is noticeable that the many Xmas Barrels from the U.S.A. that would have been on the many trucks making their way to the country parts at this time of the year, these are all no where to be seen.

And that must be as a direct result of the Tax imposed on those Barrels by the Government earlier this year; so that the many families who always looked forward to their Christmas Barrels, from the U.S. especially, they are without that gift.

The Season is already looking very low-keyed with just about a month to Xmas, and many are moaning that things are too bad.

Hope there is some improvement from the Budget.

Local Artist making a name for himself

Artist at work

Artist at work

The wide variety of trees that abounds the tri-island state has been an inspiration for one of the island’s local artists.

Attending the Grenville Secondary School, Chrispin Alexis known as “Q” developed an appreciation for art. However, upon dropping out of school, he felt a deeper yearning to learn more, and today he can be described as one of the tri-island state’s accomplished artists.

Painting from billboards to drawings depicting island life, “Q” who was born and raised in Walker, St. Andrew’s recently opened an art gallery – I Testament Art Gallery – on the 13 square mile island of Carriacou.

One may ask, why Carriacou? Speaking from his gallery “Q” said he admires the way the people of Carriacou and Petite Martinique embrace culture and art.

A very soft spoken and easy going gentleman, the artiste said that while his paintings are available for sale, he noted that it’s not about “eating a food” but setting a foundation which others can follow.

His intention is to develop a school where he can teach and help improve the artistic skills of young people here.

Q also hopes to participate in art exhibitions not only in Grenada but also in the region and internationally.

I Testament Art Gallery is located in Lauriston, Carriacou.