Bowen: The hopelessness will end with signing of IMF letter

Works Minister Gregory Bowen - blames the opposition for the air of uncertainty on the island

Works Minister Gregory Bowen – blames the opposition for the air of uncertainty on the island

A senior Minister in the Keith Mitchell-led Government has reacted to claims made by a reporter at a press conference in St. George’s that the “hope” that was promised by the New National Party (NNP) to convincingly win the January 2013 general elections has now disappeared and turned into despair on the face of Grenadians.

However, Communication & Works Minister Gregory Bowen is confident

that this sense of hopelessness will disappear from the people as soon as Government signs the much-talked about “Letter of Intent” with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a critical component of the Structural Adjustment Programme.

The Mitchell government is looking to the IMF for funding to the tune of EC$300 million over a three-year period to help address a severe fiscal situation facing the island.

The one-year old administration has suspended payments of the island’s estimated EC$2.5 billion debts to international creditors.

As part of the Structural Adjustment Programme, the NNP government has failed to deliver on the many promises of jobs but has instead resorted to a series of austerity measure including a widening of the income tax net, and huge increases in property taxes.

Minister Bowen blamed the sense of hopelessness in Grenada as the work of opposing political forces and the lack of support from public officers, trade union representatives with respect to the programme.

He conceded that there was some degree of uncertainty with the NNP’s Home-grown Structural Programme with the IMF since some feared that it might not be implemented.

“Once you hear that we sign this thing, you see all the hopelessness disappearing and then you could actually start to say we want to see the work on the ground,” he said

“The hopelessness doesn’t stem from work on the ground, the hopelessness is a feeling that perhaps with the politics as you say in the air with all the spin that things may not happen, that’s where the hopelessness comes from, and it’s not you alone on the ground, we are also on the ground”, Bowen told the media.

The senior government minister admitted that it was painful for the NNP to implement this type of programme with the IMF and to increase taxes in order to try and raise revenue.

However, he said the austerity measures being introduced are necessary as 70% of government’s recurrent revenue goes to paying salaries and wages, leaving the remaining 30% to spend on social services, health and other services.

Government collects an average of $35 million monthly and spends $50 million.

Minister Bowen stated that the government needed to tell the nation the truth about the current fiscal situation in the country.

“What we must tell the people is that they must realise that all of us must work together to ensure that the programme – fiscal stability – must first be put in place”, he said.

He accused opposition elements of going out there “and putting the spin and trying to stop the signing of the letter of intent”.

Minister Bowen said he was confident that once the trade unions give support to the programme “all the hopelessness will disappear, all the political spin will disappear ….”.

“It is difficult to understand why some of us who call ourselves Grenadians would be trying to stall this (signing of letter of intent), and not only that, would be elated and joyous and in glee whenever the country suffers and that’s where the hopelessness comes from,” he remarked.

The NNP government leaders have often pointed an accusing finger at the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for most of the uncertainty in the country.

Last Monday night, political activist Kennedy Budhlall, a former executive member of the NNP suggested that Prime Minister Mitchell should be voted out of office in the next general elections if he failed to arrest the deteriorating fiscal situation in the country.

However, Budhlall was confident that the Prime Minister was the best person to handle the job that was needed to resuscitate the ailing Grenadian economy.

 

Ex-bodyguard to PM Mitchell Arrested

Frederick "Balla" Noel - created a stir in Grenville on Saturday morning

Frederick “Balla” Noel – created a stir in Grenville on Saturday morning

The once-feared chief bodyguard of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has found himself again in trouble with the law.

Frederick “Balla” Noel was arrested by Police in Grenville on Saturday and charged with a number of offences including resisting arrest and causing damage to property.

A police source told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that there was drama in the Eastern city as “Balla” locked himself inside his bus for nearly an hour and refused to surrender himself to a team of police officers who was armed with a warrant to arrest and imprison him for failing to pay a court fine.

He spoke of the defiant “Balla” backing into a parked vehicle and causing some damage to the car as he tried to get away from the police officers.

The warrant arose from a court case in which Balla failed to pay EC$3000.00 in compensation to a retired Inspector of Police, Anthony Welsh who had taken legal action against the former bodyguard to the Prime Minister for assault and threatening to harm him in St. George’s.

The feared Balla allegedly showed up once in court for the matter but refused to attend at least five other sittings before Chief Magistrate, Tamara Gill.

The source said the Chief Magistrate eventually heard the matter and gave Balla until last October to pay the compensation but he did not comply with the court order.

According to the police official, the retried Insp. Welsh approached the court for Balla to be imprisoned for not paying the money to him and Chief Magistrate Gill agreed.

Insp. Welsh who has given close to 40 years of service to the island, last served as the Sergeant-at-arms in the Houses of Parliament.

Retired Inspector Welsh - took the former bodyguard to PM Minister to court

Retired Inspector Welsh – took the former bodyguard to PM Minister to court

The source told this newspaper that a warrant to commit Balla to the Richmond Hill prison was issued by the court to the police but for some strange reason it was not executed.

An annoyed and angry Welsh reportedly complained to Commissioner of Police, Winston James and Deputy Commissioner of Police, Frank Redhead about the failure of the lawmen to execute the warrant on Balla who had reached the rank of Corporal with the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF).

In speaking to THE NEW TODAY, Insp Welsh said he got the impression from the police that they were reluctant to go after Balla due to his association with Prime Minister Mitchell.

Balla had lost his job with the police force after a court found him guilty in connection with an incident in which he had shot a man in a lover’s quarrel with a woman.

At the time of the incident Balla was considered as the Number One bodyguard to Prime Minister Mitchell. After the shooting incident, he allegedly called Jamaican attorney, Hugh Wildman who was serving as Special Prosecutor for the Mitchell government to seek advice on how to handle the matter.

One local newspaper had quoted Balla at one time as saying that he loved Prime Minister Mitchell to the extent that he was prepared to “take a bullet for him” if anyone attempted to shoot or kill the Grenadian leader.

Saturday’s episode started when a police party with the committal warrant spotted Balla in Grenville and approached him.

He said the wanted man was cornered in a Hollywood movie-style encounter. Balla locked himself in the bus for nearly one-hour and the former bodyguard of Prime Minister Mitchell defied the orders of the police officers to surrender himself into their custody.

He spoke of the wanted man making a move to speed away from the area resulting in the lawmen shooting three of the tyres on the bus.

He said that one of the sons of Balla came on the scene and tried to plead with his father to surrender to the police.

He stated that the son had a spare key to the vehicle and opened one of the doors to allow the arresting officers to get at his father.

Balla is said to have held on tightly to the steering wheel of the vehicle as he continued to resist arrest.

However, he was eventually subdued by the police officers who were forced to call for re-enforcement and officers of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) swooped down on the scene.

A handcuffed Balla reportedly threw himself onto the ground several times and kept shouting and crying, “Police brutality” as he was led away in the presence of a large crowd that had gathered to witness the incident.

An eyewitness on the scene told this newspaper that the lawmen acted professionally in the matter and that there was no manhandling of Balla.

The arrested ex-police officer was taken to the Grenville police station and within one hour the $3000.00 in compensation due to Insp. Welsh was paid.

However, Balla was not released from custody as fresh charges were slapped on him by the police including resisting arrest and damage to property in relation to the car that he ran into as he tried to drive away from the police officers who tried to execute on him the committal order to the Richmond Hill prison.

The police official said it is likely that additional charges would be laid in the coming days on the former chief bodyguard to Prime Minister Mitchell.

Bail in the sum of $2500.00 was posted and the former Corporal of Police was released from custody.

In recent months, Balla has not been seen providing security detail service to Prime Minister Mitchell as some top officials of the ruling party grew increasingly concerned that the temperamental ex-body guard was causing a great degree of embarrassment for the Grenadian leader.

Keith Mitchell: Newly minted crusader for national unity

Khalicby Arthur Kallick

Dr Keith Mitchell, in his Independence Day address, said, “I again offer my hand to my political opponents. I say come let us build our nation together.” In the same vein, he said to the New York-based Diaspora, “I make a call today for all of us, despite our differences, let us unite. Let us unite to build our country first.” Dr Mitchell also anchored his call by making biblical reference to 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish ways.”

Dr Mitchell’s political career can be described as probably the greatest contributor to the post revolution saga of divisiveness and political morass. When he wrested control of the New National Party (NNP) from Herbert Blaize, many opined that it was an act of treachery, as he constantly reassured Mr Blaize of his unwavering loyalty. Mr Blaize actually believed Dr Mitchell until his rude awakening on the convention floor. Dr Mitchell, in his defence, said that Mr Blaize must have been naïve to think that a challenge was not imminent, as opinion polls indicated that Dr Mitchell was the most popular politician in the country at that time.

The endless making and breaking of makeshift alliances, along with backdoor deal making, has been the hallmark of the modus operandi of Dr Mitchell. In the process, political friendships were made and broken with such ruthlessness that he has accumulated an unenviable briefcase of enemies of all shades.

The long stream of public scandals that culminated with the “Briefcase Inquiry” are potent reminders that Dr Mitchell’s personal credibility is tenuous at best, even with avowed supporters of the NNP. The ugly outburst that “Me damn money is mine” still causes self respecting Grenadians to cringe about the reality that a sitting prime minister can bring the office into such disrepute.

Many Grenadians recall that, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) made a call for the formation of a national unity government. Dr Mitchell scoffed at the proposal and even went on to insinuate that a coup was in the making. The then Prime Minister Manning of Trinidad and Tobago appeared to have believed the rumour and began to take certain measures to quell a nonexistent threat.

Colour politics of Dr Mitchell’s vintage has now defined the political landscape of the country. This phenomenon directly affects the functioning of public institutions like the civil service, the Royal Grenada Police Force and statutory bodies. The pervasive stench of political cronyism and the absence of respect for professionalism and merit have conspired against the efficient management of these institutions. Since the second clean-sweep election victory by the NNP, Dr Mitchell has again showed that he has not changed. His handlers wanted to make us believe that he is now a “kinder and gentler”; however, the treatment meted out to Sir Carlyle Glean and Commissioner Thompson has blown this myth out of the skies.

An even more worrying trend is the fact that he uses the Parliament to malign and criticise ordinary citizens who are not in a position to defend themselves in the hallowed chambers of the House. His unwarranted attack on Mr Jude Bernard, a local commentator, bears testimony to this. The prime minister’s use of insults and downright lies against opponents is legendary.

I contend that Dr Mitchell’s conduct, past and present, makes him ineligible to lead the charge for national unity. His arrogance, disrespectful conduct and his known penchant to say one thing and do another, further diminishes his chances of success. The biblical reference made in 1st Corinthians that he himself cited is of the essence. Dr Mitchell has not transitioned from (political) childhood and no amount of flowery language will camouflage the opportunistic intent for his call for national unity.

His newly converted followers, Peter David and Chester Humphrey, cannot create traction for “Project Grenada”, which is intended to provide tacit support for the prime minister’s crusade. It all has to do with his attempt to cement a legacy that is but a fleeting illusion.

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 counsellor.

 

One year later!!!

This week marks one year since Grenadians voted out the National Democratic Congress of Tillman Thomas and returned to power Dr. Keith Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) which had been in charge of the affairs of the State for 13 years earlier from June 1995 to July 2008.

The significance of the victory is that it was the second time since the 1974 independence that one party had enjoyed a clean sweep at the polls.

The first time around in 1999, the NNP under the same Dr. Mitchell was already in power when it won all the seats in its crushing defeat of all political opponents.

This time around in February 2013, the NNP was in opposition and was able to convince the electorate to vote out an incumbent that four years earlier had won eleven of the fifteen seats to control the affairs of Parliament.

The electorate fell for the NNP mantra of “We will Deliver” as the party promised to create thousands of jobs in the first month of getting back into office and to transform the landscape with the amount of foreign investors on the horizon waiting to come into the country once “the doc” was back at the helm.

There is no doubt that the Mitchell government is under tremendous pressure to “deliver”given the grave financial situation facing the country.

The new regime has not paid a single cent in the past 12 months to any of Grenada’s foreign creditors and is now looking to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bail-out funds through a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) that comes with a great deal of austerity measures.

As a matter of fact a number of cracks have started to surface within the NNP itself as some supporters have become disenchanted with the lack of work as was promised a year ago.

Some of the MP’s have been accused of going into hiding in their constituencies as they have failed to deliver on the many promises offered to the electorate to get their votes on Election Day – February 19, 2013.

And the mamagism of the people is continuing unabated by some of the chief spokesperson for the Mitchell regime.

The latest piece of propaganda is that money will start to run on the ground once again when the trade unions buy into the SAP and allow the government to proceed and sign the much-talked about “Letter of Intent” with the IMF.

This is so far from the truth. The fund has indicated quite clearly that the two last governments of Grenada – NNP and NDC – have not lived up to expectations with two previous IMF funded programmes to tackle the fiscal problems confronting the Spice Isle.

In the case of the upcoming programme, the head of a recent IMF visiting delegation pointed out that the fund reserves the right to withhold its monies from Grenada if the government fails to do a number of things that are agreed upon for resolving the economic and financial issues facing the country.

The message that the IMF was conveying is that it will not be business as usual with the Government of Grenada – whether it was NNP or NDC.

In addition, this is not free money as Grenada would have to repay the millions provided to us by the fund.

In the upcoming weeks and months, the government would have to do more than it is currently doing to change the rapidly increasing tide of hopelessness in the country.

The people need to see some more concrete things taking place on the ground to be convinced that Grenada is moving up and out of the malaise that is so evident all around.

Even some government ministers appear to be doing a bit of harm and damage by the words coming out of their mouths these days.

At one time, there was talk of three 5-star hotels to be built on the famous Grand Anse beach. A few days ago a senior minister appeared on a local radio station and was talking about only two hotels.

The government of PM Mitchell needs to come clean with the population on the foreign investment projects especially in the area of hotel construction.

Is it true that the talks between the so-called investor/s and St. George’s University (SGU) for the purchase of the university property on Grand Anse beach have broken down to the point that the planned hotel deal is just about over?

What is the status of the 5-star hotel planned for the Nyack’s property on Grand Anse beach? Are the developers reluctant to go forward because the government is reluctant to give them the Camerhogne Park to incorporate into the hotel because the proposed site is too small to accommodate a 5-star hotel?

The government needs to do more than just engage in talk. It is time for action on the ground some 12 months after the election to give hope that the “delivery train” is really on the move from low gear into high gear.

Even the issue of unity is causing some concern to this newspaper one year after the 2013 general elections.

Quite frankly, THE NEW TODAY is not optimistic about the supporters of Congress heeding the call of the Prime Minister given the deep political polarisation of the country along the lines of Green and Yellow.

Dr. Mitchell is seen in some quarters as perhaps the most divisive person in recent years to occupy the position of Prime Minister of the country.

He might have to step aside as head of the government for another of the elected Members of Parliament to take charge in order to get persons in the country to start to give serious consideration to the idea of national unity.

As one social commentator said recently, “…We must admit that only a united Grenada can weather the current hardship we are facing, if we were to come out stronger for it. The problem is, Mitchell is not the one to forge this unity and reconciliation that is so necessary. People who can help, the thinking population that is, don’t take Mitchell seriously when he speaks, as history has shown him up as a man whose words never match his actions”.

Local lawyers pay tribute to Hudson-Phillip

Karl Terrence Hudson-Phillip, QC

Karl Terrence Hudson-Phillip, QC

The legacy of a legal legend, Karl Terrence Hudson-Phillip, QC, was refreshed as members of the legal profession in Grenada gathered last week to celebrate his life.

Members of the Grenada Bar Association assembled at the No.1 High Court last week Wednesday to participate in a Special Sitting of the Court in memory of the 80-year-old Queen’s Counsel who died in his sleep on January 15, in London.

Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Nelson recalled personal encounters with the “feared” legal luminary, a man he said refused to accept nonsense as he touched on the role played by Hudson-Phillip as lead Prosecutor against the 19 persons charged with the murder of former Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and members of the People’s Revolutionary Government in 1983 in Grenada.

Nelson spoke of the impact Hudson-Phillip had on people throughout the world and the immortalising of him by veteran calypsonians, Slinger “Mighty Sparrow” Francisco with “Ah Like It So” and Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, “Ah Fraid Karl.”

He recalled Hudson-Phillip being demonised in the twin island republic for drafting the Public Order Act, which was proposed by the People’s National Movement government in 1973 to deal with the Black Power uprisings in the neighbouring country.

Hudson-Phillip, a former Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, was appointed lead counsel for the prosecution in the trial of the radical members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen group headed by Abu Bakr.

According to DPP Nelson, Hudson-Phillip’s involvement in T&T politics brought a new dimension into the arena despite the defeat at the polls in 1981 of his Organisation of National Reconstruction (ONR).

Describing him as a “tower of strength”, Nelson believes that the late Karl was very resourceful and provided immense service to the people of Grenada and left in his wake a rich legacy and that he was deeply touched by his departure.

He believes that Hudson-Phillip will not be missed just by the legal fraternity in the region but throughout the world.

“He left an indelible mark on the legal system”, said DPP Nelson.

Attorney-at-Law, Celia Clyne-Edwards, QC, representing the Inner Bar, also shared with her colleagues her experience working with and knowing the legal icon.

“He was my friend,” she told them, adding that Hudson-Phillip never forgot his homeland Grenada, despite being born in Trinidad.

She recalled his regular retreat at his home in Carriacou and his open invitations to friends to visit even in his absence.

She recalled that Karl was always “helpful and supportive” but is comforted by the fact that he lived a full and long life, the way he wanted to live it.

Clyne-Edwards urged friends and families to cherish his memories.

Attorney-at-Law, Ruggles Ferguson who spoke on behalf of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Bar Association commended the achievement of Hudson-Phillip for his more than 50 years of service as a lawyer and “dying at the Bar with his booths on”.

Ferguson said that he was shocked to hear of the sudden passing of Hudson Phillip whom he referred to as “a true man of the people”.

“He was a fearless man and a professional, who tread the places others feared to venture”, he said of Hudson-Phillip.

Ferguson recalled the legacy left behind by the former TNT Attorney-General in the criminal, civil, corporate and International law.

He said that there is no doubt that Hudson-Phillip stood out in both criminal and civil legal proceedings and served as both a Prosecutor and Defense attorney with a meticulous eye for detail.

“We have a lot to learn from him as individuals,” he added.

Jennifer Hudson-Phillip, herself an attorney-at-law, was present in the courtroom to reminiscence on the life of her father.

She said she is satisfied that he lived fully and passionately and left no place for mediocrity.

She said that those who did not truly know her father considered him arrogant but others like her remembers his humorous and softer side, and one who never forgot his humble beginnings.

High Court Judge, Madam Justice Margaret Price-Findley, also reflected on the life of Hudson-Phillip.

She recalled a T&T newspaper article, which referred to him as the best Prime Minister Trinidad ever had despite the fact that Hudson-Phillip was never elected to that position.

She lauded his exemplary knowledge of the courtroom and branded it as outstanding.

“His was a life well lived”, said Price-Findley who is considered as the senior high court judge on the island.

Hudson-Phillips who was appointed as a Queen’s Counsel in 1970 also served as a judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) from 2003 to 2007.

A former President of the Law Association of Trinidad & Tobago, Hudson-Phillip was awarded the Order of Trinidad and Tobago and served as a Member of Parliament from 1966 to 1976.

Between 1969 and 1973 he served as Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs. In 1980, he founded the Organisation for National Reconstruction (ONR), a political party which contested the 1981 General Elections.

Despite getting the second-highest vote tally in the election, the ONR failed to secure a single seat in Parliament.

 

Andall calls for vigilance against idea of One-Party state

Andall speaks out against one-party State

Andall speaks out against one-party State

A top member of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is urging Grenadians to become politically vigilant so as to avoid the country slipping into a one-party state.

Joseph Andall who was recently elected as the Deputy Political Leader of Congress made the comment in light of statements being made by high ranking officials of the ruling New National Party (NNP) for Grenada to become a one-party state.

“Those people who think along those lines, they clearly do not have the interest of the country at heart’’ he said.

Andall indicated that whenever the country finds itself being controlled by one organisation with power over the Executive, the Legislative, Judiciary, and law enforcement agency, the people will be in for a long and hard ride.

He said all over the world people are revolting against one-partyism that is ruled by a select clique.

“It would be a backward step, especially in a year when we are talking about commemorating 40 Years of independence for anyone to be embracing that idea of totalitarianism in our politics”, he added.

“There is enough space in the political landscape for everyone in Grenada and no one or no group should feel that they have a monopoly on good ideas, or that they have a monopoly or the way our country should be run, and everyone has to be careful about that,’’ he said.

Just last week radio broadcaster Andre Donald who is closely aligned to NNP conducted an interview with Education Minister Anthony Boatswain on Real FM radio station and disclosed that former Tourism Minister Peter David who is now an Advisor to Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell had made a suggestion that Grenada should find itself in a one-party state.

Donald said that about one month ago David briefed him on a style of government in which one party would be in power without opposition for up to 15 years and later ushering opposition through proportional representation.

According to Donald, David who once held the powerful post of General Secretary in Congress stressed that Grenada’s biggest problem is that it continues to adhere to Westminster style of government.

David is a former member of the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) which virtually ran a one-party state when it seized power in a 1979 coup d’etat against the elected Eric Gairy government.

The NJM created the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG), headed by Maurice Bishop, and proceeded to detain without trial a number of its political opponents like former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, Stanley Cyrus, Winston Whyte, the late Teddy Victor, and Clem Langdon.

Grenada returned to the Parliamentary system of government when U.S troops stormed the island on October 25, 1983 to remove a military junta led by General Hudson Austin that had seized power in a second bloody coup in which Bishop and three Cabinet colleagues were among several persons killed at Fort George.

David who served as a Captain in the disbanded People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) and Junior Minister for Information, marked his return to frontline politics when he joined Congress and successfully contested the Town of St. George seat in the 2003 general elections.

He and nine other so called rebels were expelled from NDC in September 2012 at the height of a struggle for control of the party and government.

Andall said if Grenadians ever allow the NNP to solidify its grip on State Power in the country it would be a very sad day for Grenada.

The NNP already has control of the Lower House of Parliament after it won all of the 15 Parliamentary seats in the February 2013 General Elections.

The NDC Number Two Man who was a guest on the party’s weekly radio program, “NDC Heartbeat” pointed to the attempts that are already being made to muzzle freedom of expression through the Electronic Crimes Act of 2013.

Fielden: Not a busy tourist season

The new logo to be used by the Tourism Authority

The new logo to be used by the Tourism Authority

The Grenada Hotel and Tourism Authority (GHTA) has disclosed that the beginning of 2014 so far has seen a slow start for the tourism industry.

According to former President of the association, Russ Fielden not much has been happening for the season, although there has been an uptake in the industry with the opening of the Sandals La Source resort but “everything (is) going to Sandals.”

He is hopeful nonetheless that with the “onset of the marketing of Pure Grenada,” the logo of the newly created Grenada Tourism Authority that there would be an increase in 2015.

A major issue that has been affecting the country’s tourism product was airlift.

Fielden told The New Today that there has been an increase in airlift with the recent opening of Sandals.

“We can certainly do with some more,” he said, adding that airlift is one of the most important aspects of keeping the tourism industry afloat.

Last Friday, Grenada unveiled a new destination brand in a significant move aimed at repositioning the country as a major tourist destination.

More than 100 invited guests from the island’s tourism, diplomatic, corporate, and media circles gathered to witness the unveiling of the island’s new brand identity at a cocktail reception hosted at the Ministry of Tourism’s offices.

The event was also attended by members of the foreign press. Highlights of the evening included live cultural performances and a special rendition of the locally written song “Welcome Home,” which was used as the sound track for the introductory video that revealed the new brand.

“We know you are going to love it,” declared Alexandra Otway-Noel, the island’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, when asked why she chose February 14 – Valentine’s Day – for the launch.

The new brand tag line “Pure Grenada” will form the underpinning for the island’s new marketing focus, positioning Grenada as “off-the-beaten path,” and a haven for the discerning travel explorer.

The new logo also reflects the island’s deep Amerindian roots and its proud ancestral heritage; while still encapsulating the “heart of the nutmeg” – which has been the backbone of the island’s trade and exports.

“We struggled to find the one word that encapsulated everything that is beautiful, unspoiled and undiscovered about these three islands – and it took the eyes of a child to see it in its true form – Pure,” explained Russ Jarman Price, Chairman, Inglefield, Ogilvie & Mather, the Caribbean arm of the global advertising giant.

Speaking at the launch, CEO of the Grenada Tourism Authority, Rudy Grant indicated that the new brand will be the signature calling card of the destination going forward, and will be implemented in a phased-rollout across the island and on the Authority’s brand collateral in local and overseas markets.

Only six weeks ago, Grenada restructured its marketing and promotion arm into the newly formed Grenada Tourism Authority.

The new mandate includes better positioning to seize new marketing opportunities and to be more adaptable to the dynamic commercial realities of today’s new global tourism and hospitality environment.

In an innovative move, the Ministry of Tourism partnered with the private sector through the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association (GHTA) using grant funds provided by Compete Caribbean to re-position the island’s brand identity to more closely align with the core niche sectors that have been identified as target markets.

It will also be supported by GHTA as the private sector strives to live the brand by becoming more sustainable.

In the re-positioning of Grenada’s new brand, the island was extremely fortunate to get the volunteered support of world-class experts in the field – thanks to the leadership of a local sustainable development expert, Jennifer Alexis, of Ethical Ideas who also volunteered her time for several months to make this happen.

Mitchell defends the Imanis

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has once again defended the decision of his nearly one-year old New National Party (NNP) government to spend in excess of six million E.C dollars on the Imani programme for youngsters on the island since returning to office in the February 2013 general elections.

Speaking at a ceremony held Friday night by the operators of Sandals/La Source to recognise the contributions by local businesses especially in the construction sector to facilitate the opening of the multi-million dollar hotel in December, the Prime Minister cautioned his critics to refrain from openly attacking the project involving the nation’s young people.

He said the programme was crafted in response to the high unemployment situation involving young people in the country.

“We cannot have a situation where we have thousands of bright young people with no hope and no opportunity”, he told the gathering that included some of the leading private sector and tourism officials in Grenada.

According to Prime Minister Mitchell, the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration had no choice on assuming office nearly a year ago than to create the programme for the young people despite the acute economic and financial situation facing the country.

“Despite all the economic problems that we have, despite the fiscal situation, we have no choice but to invest in the human capital of our land, and therefore, the institution of the Imani programme is meant to precisely do this”, he said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that the government is hopeful that through the Imani programme, “the young people will feel … “that opportunities will come their way”.

“So I do caution anyone of us that attempt to make them scapegoats of our present fiscal situation, I say again it’s definitely not fair”, he added.

The President of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Lydon Lewis has called for a review of the programme to ensure that the country gets value for money with the millions invested in the initiative.

Trade union representative in the Senate, Raymond Roberts has pointed to monies being wasted in the programme and referred to the case of 25 young persons working as Imanis on the Grand Anse beach in the capacity as Wardens.

“There is really little for these youngsters to do on the beach and every day people are just laughing at what is happening on the beach”, Roberts is quoted as saying.

The former General Secretary of the Grenada Trade Union Council (GTUC) would like to see the Mitchell government correct the weaknesses in the programme and to provide more gainful employment for the youngsters.

In responding to his critics, Dr. Mitchell said that the nation’s leaders have a responsibility to “the youths of our land”, adding that, “if we don’t provide hope and opportunities, we therefore, won’t have a country”.

“So whatever problems exist, we will deal with the weaknesses but we must not use them as a scapegoat for our fiscal situation. Our young people must be given opportunities”, he said.

The cash-strapped Mitchell government has been forced to approach the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance with its self-styled homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to deal with a financial crisis facing the island.

An official of the fund has branded the Grenada government as financially “bankrupt”.

Since taking office in February 2013, the Mitchell administration has stopped making payments on the national debt of EC$2.4 billion to creditors and is seeking support of the IMF to engage in negotiations with a host of lending agencies and organizations on restructuring the debt.

The State vs Judy Benoit

State lawyers have served notice that they will profusely oppose attempts by attorney-at-law, Ruggles Ferguson to get a full panel of Court of Appeal Justices to overturn a decision taken by a single Appeal Judge last month in a matter involving sacked Supervisor of Elections, Judy Benoit and Governor-General, Dame Cecile La Grenade.

Benoit is trying to get the law courts to review the decision taken by Dame Cecile last year to remove her from the post following complaints from the one year old Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government.

The State is smarting from a victory over Ferguson when a single judge of the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of arguments put forward by Solicitor-General, Dwight Horsford who appeared for the Governor-General in the court matter.

A state official told this newspaper that the Ferguson application before the Court of Appeal “will be trenchantly opposed by the Solicitor General on behalf of the GG”.

The two sides appeared before Justice of Appeal Louis Blenman on January 21 after challenges were reportedly made by Horsford to an order made by high court judge, Justice Paula Gilford granting Benoit permission to file for judicial review of the GG’s decision to remove her from the performance of the functions of the office of Supervisor of Elections.

The Judge is said to have made the order on legal papers submitted to her by Ferguson acting on behalf of Benoit and without hearing either side, defense or Counsel for the GG.

According to a legal source, the rules permit the judge to do so “if she considers it desirable or appropriate to so do”.

The NEW TODAY understands that the order was made on the November 14, 2013 but the court did not communicate the decision about the order to either parties, as well as failed to draw the order up or have it served on the parties.

“So neither the GG or Benoit knew that leave was granted”, said the official.

He added that what was rather intriguing is that the application for leave was dated by the Supreme Court Registry as having been heard on November 28, 2013.

The records will show that on November 25, 2013, Ferguson served Dame Cecile with an application for leave and two days later Horsford filed “a Notice of Objection to the application for leave” and put forward his written arguments.

The registry then notified the two sides on November 28, 2013 that the Benoit matter was adjourned to December 12, 2013 for hearing before Justice Gilford in High Court No. 2.

This newspaper that on the day in question, Ferguson was on his feet making oral arguments in support of leave when the Judge interrupted him.

A source who asked not to be named said the judge “sent for her note book and when she got the note book advised the parties counsel that she already granted leave and apologised for not sending out a leave order”.

The court official said: “The Solicitor General (Horsford) inquired of her (the judge) what the order stated; she read out the order and her reasons for the order granting leave to Benoit. The Solicitor General again inquired whether the leave order contained the usual 14 day condition for a claim to be filed in pursuance of leave and whether he would be able to have sight of a copy of the order. The Judge replied that the order would be made available that same day.

“The Solicitor General then indicated to the judge that in light of the order made on the 14th November, 2013 the dimension of things changed. The Judge then indicated that she would set the order to take effect from that day, the 12th December, 2013 and would make the order conditional upon Benoit filing a claim within 14 days of the order”, he added.

According to information reaching THE NEW TODAY, the Benoit matter took another twist when on December 16, 2013, the Solicitor General was served with an order dated December 12, 2013 which indicated that leave was granted on that date.

The source said that as far as Horsford was concerned this was “contrary to what the judge said in court that it (the order) was made on 14th November, 2013”.

He went on: “The Solicitor General filed for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal on the essential grounds that the Judge having prior to the 12th December 2013 made an order granting leave conditional on Benoit filing a claim within 14 days of that order, there was nothing for the judge to adjudicate again on the 12th December, 2013”.

The legal official pointed out that Horsford was taking the position that since Justice Gilford had already granted leave on the application, “there was no longer a pending application before (her) to grant leave on”.

He noted that the grant of leave is by the Civil Procedure Rules of Court and conditional upon action being taken within 14 days of the leave and that order dies at the end of that period.

“….In any event, the order granting leave expired and could not be revived or revisited. Even if it hadn’t expired, the order made on the 14th November 2013 could not be extended because the rules of court do not permit the judge to do so”, the official quoted Horsford as saying.

In his ruling, the Court of Appeal Justice ruled in favour of Horsford by siding with his arguments that Dame Cecile had a realistic prospect of succeeding on an appeal and that the Judge in the lower court had no jurisdiction to extend the time within which to comply with the original grant of leave.

“The Justice of Appeal therefore granted the GG leave to appeal Justice Gilford’s order by which Benoit was granted leave, treated the GG’s application for leave to appeal as the appeal itself and allowed the appeal”, the source said.

“The result is that Benoit’s proceedings in the High Court against the GG have been removed. Benoit’s proceedings have been shut down … by a procedural point taken before the Court of Appeal”, he added.

In the wake of this ruling by the Court of Appeal, Ferguson acting for Benoit has taken steps to seek a review of the ruling by a three member panel of the Court of Appeal justice.

Ferguson is arguing that since his client (Benoit) did not know of the original order of Justice Gilford made on November 14, 2013, she was not bound by it and it was a mere administrative error which the court could correct as it did by the order of December 12 2013.

A date is still to be set for hearing of the matter before the full Justices of Appeal.

 

IMF shares the blame for Grenada’s predicament

On 7 February, Grenada marked 40 years of independence. It may be independent from Britain, but it is very far from being out of the clutches of international lenders following its March 2013 default on US$257m of foreign and local debt.

A US$193m bond maturing in 2025 is currently trading at 32 cents to the dollar, and creditors are losing patience with the government’s reluctance to start “good faith” negotiations.

Meanwhile the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been looking in depth at reasons behind the failure of its 2006-2010 and 2010-2013 programmes.

The IMF attributes the failure of its programmes to a combination of unfortunate external factors coupled with a lack of commitment from Grenada, but the IMF also accepts that “more emphasis should have been given to growth-inducing measures”.

The two IMF programmes were the US$15.2m 2006-11 Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) and its successor US$13.3m 2010-13 Extended Credit Facility.

Grenada’s turn to the IMF is usually seen as a consequence of hurricanes Ivan and Emily which hit the island in 2004 and 2005, which indeed it largely was. However, there had also been a significant build-up in debt following the slowdown in economic growth in 2000.

From 1980-1999 Grenada experienced a relatively healthy average annual growth rate of 4.5% which pushed its per capita income into the upper-middle-income group. To counteract the slowdown since 2000, Grenada followed an expansionary fiscal policy which in turn led to a rapid build-up of debt. By 2002, interest payments had doubled relative to 1999.

Then came the events of 11 September 2001 which hit the tourism industry badly; the 2004 and 2005 hurricanes which resulted in damage estimated at 200% of GDP; and then, of course, there was the global financial crisis of 2008. In short, Grenada has suffered from a decade-long battering from external shocks.

But the IMF’s point is that Grenada has not helped itself, and governments of both main parties have been to blame.

The now-ruling New National Party (NNP) led by Prime Minister Keith Mitchell was in power from 1995 until July 2008 and was therefore complicit in the run-up of debt after 2000 and in the poor implementation of the initial IMF programme. However, this poor implementation continued under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government that held power from July 2008 until February 2013.

Almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The two IMF programmes were based on growth projections of 6.5% in 2006 and 5% in 2007 to be followed by five years of 4% growth up until 2012.

In the event, Grenada did not even get close to this, recording a -4.0% contraction in 2006, a bounce back of 6.1% growth in 2007, and then 0.9% growth in 2008, -6.6% contraction in 2009, -0.5% contraction in 2010, 0.8% growth in 2011, and (in 2012) a further decline of -1.8%.

Given this seriously off-target growth outcome it is not surprising that Grenada missed its debt targets as well. The 2006 IMF arrangement looked for an underlying adjustment in the primary fiscal balance amounting to 4.5 percentage points of GDP and a decline in the debt ratio to 60% by 2015. The 2010 programme looked for a surplus in the primary fiscal balance by 2011 and a reduction in the debt ratio to 60% of GDP by 2020.

The effect on debt levels of the well-below target growth performance was compounded by an expansionary fiscal policy in 2011, and by end of 2012, public-sector debt was 108% of GDP. The March 2013 announcement of a “comprehensive and collaborative” debt restructuring was inevitable.

In the IMF’s January 2014 post-mortem on its recent engagement with Grenada, it maintains that its focus on the fiscal area was “probably appropriate” given the country’s unsustainable debt and large fiscal deficits, however it does also admit that “more emphasis should have been given to growth-inducing measures”.

But this is not a complete let-out for Grenada’s two political parties. For instance, the IMF points out that of 31 structural measures established as conditions for the two programmes, “less than one-third (were) met on schedule, and nearly 40% (were) never…achieved”.

Other criticisms include high spending by the NNP government in the run-up to the July 2008 general election and “unbudgeted retroactive wage payments”.

Under the 2010-13 programme, which was supervised by the NDC government, while targets were largely met for the first review, by the time of the second review the government was indicating an intention to pursue a debt restructuring programme and “subsequently the programme could not be brought back on track because the authorities decided to undertake fiscal stimulus measures in the face of continued weak growth and a complicated political situation (thin parliamentary majority) ahead of elections”.

One point on which Grenada does get praise is the introduction of VAT in 2010. The IMF describes this as “a major and durable success of the 2006-2010 programme”. But the praise is diluted by the observation that the yield from VAT “has been eroded by the practice of granting ever-expanding exemptions”.

For instance, in 2010, the NDC government granted general VAT exemptions for the tourism and construction sectors. Halting this practice is seen as a priority for future programmes.

So where to now? The IMF says that “bold strategies” are essential, by which it does not mean higher government spending to promote growth. It says that a future programme should focus on a “few key macro-critical reforms” and should be based on more realistic growth forecasts.

Growth-related reforms, it says, “should be front and centre”. These reforms should be targeted towards improving the climate for business and regulatory reforms “that are macro-critical”.

Fiscal adjustment, however, will be unavoidable – as will be debt restructuring, as has been apparent since the March 2013 default, when Prime Minister Keith Mitchell announced: “It is now time for Grenada to confront the fact that it cannot continue to pay its debts on current terms, and that the restoration of growth requires the debt overhang to be resolved. We need a fresh start, and it is therefore imperative that we approach our creditors promptly to discuss an orderly restructuring of our liabilities.”

The problem is that the government has been in no hurry to negotiate seriously with its creditors, and this month they began to show signs of running out of patience.

On 7 February, a committee said to be representing 75% of Grenada’s foreign and local creditors sent a letter to the government complaining that its consistent requests for meetings were being turned down; “strongly objecting” to this approach; and demanding an early beginning to “good faith” negotiations.

 

(Reproduced from the Latin American newsletter)