We keep reaching historic milestones

Lloyd NoelWhile we are waiting for the opening of our Parliament, for the record second time that the NNP and Prime Minister Mitchell have won all the seats in the national Election – to take charge of the people’s business for the next five years down the political road – we also passed the historical milestone of March 13th, 1979, when our Tri-Island state created History, by becoming the first English-Speaking Caribbean Island to take over political control by armed Revolution from an Elected Government.

So that in the two months of February and March thus far – we celebrated the Seventh of February as our independence anniversary, the nineteenth of February as the second time the same party and Prime Minister won all the Parliamentary seats in an Election, and the Thirteenth of March as that historic armed Revolution Anniversary, when the Eric Gairy Elected Gulp Government was overthrown by the Maurice Bishop (NJM) New Jewel Movement in 1979.

On that said 13th of March last week, the Roman Catholic Cardinals in Rome Elected for the very first time a New Pope from the South American Sub-continent of Argentina – so maybe the Merciful father was reminding us all that not only wars and Revolution take place on that memorable date.

So now that we have the Elected Government, with absolute power in our Parliament to do as it pleases, and no one at that level to raise any objection against any proposal put forward by the party in power – I just wish to remind those Fifteen M.Ps, that the very Constitution which gives that power also lays down, that the people of Grenada expect conditions to be created whereby every one may enjoy his economic, social and political, civil and cultural rights.

And provision must be made for ensuring the protection in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, of those fundamental rights and freedoms – regardless of which colour Jersey he/she was wearing during those rallies and political meetings.

From all that the people encountered during the past three or four years – when the economic and employment situation was chaotic worldwide, and we in these parts had no alternative to fall back on, since our Agriculture Industry in Nutmeg and Bananas and Cocoa had been so badly damaged by the Ivan and Emily hurricane disasters – no one can be expecting economic miracles overnight to solve our many problems, but at least those in dire need expect to see some worthwhile improvement in the near future to ease up the pressure.

A whole lot of promises were made by the winners now in control, and some of them would take more time to come on stream – as the new controllers find their way in sorting whatever was left by the losers, especially because of the disunity that existed among the defeated group in the last two or more years in control.

In sorting out the left over from the losers, one of the areas I heard mention of during the campaign, was that of too many staff on government payroll, and the need to retrench some of them to cut costs.

I very much hope that the winners do not misuse their clean sweep authority, to victimise Government workers whom they feel were supporters of the losers in the Elections. This victory already speaks for itself in no uncertain terms, and there is really nothing left to prove.

It has been widely exposed that the Government debt is huge and payments have not been met for some time now, and those now in control had to go begging the creditors for more time to raise the overdue payments.

Those debts did not only come about since after the 2008 Elections, when the recent losers won control of Government – so that the winners have nothing to prove, and should not be seen to be taking measures that tend to penalise suspected NDCites.

The voters heard all the promises of Jobs and more Jobs if they voted NNP – and the great majority relied on those promises, and created the double-winners political history – for our Tri-Island State.

The worldwide Economic recession is by no means over, and the jobless situation in the Third World setting we live in, will not get better overnight, while the first-world countries are still struggling to stabilise their own Economies, and provide jobs for their very own unemployed.

All the above must mean, therefore, that our people cannot expect the promises made before the Elections to be fulfilled in a couple months, because these things take time.

At the same time, however, in areas where jobs can be provided by the Government itself, to do with the long-standing Roads and Bridges projects for which funding was available – these should be implemented, to help ease the pressure on so many families who have been struggling to make ends meet for some time now.

In other words, it is a matter for both sides to exercise patience and understanding, to enable those in charge and those in need to get things going – so that the system as a whole can be seen to be moving along.

There can be no denial, that nothing was happening on the jobs and investment fronts for the two years or more before the Elections, and not only the Government debts were increasing every month, but the people were ketching hell to make ends meet – and to remedy that state of affairs will take some time before we can see improvements to shout about.

Having said all the foregoing however, and despite being well aware of the critical conditions now existing across the islands – as well as the facts that those now in control of our nations state, were also the same Leader and party in charge back in the days of those questionable Investors – we still have to make allowances and permit time to get things moving.

I still hasten to sound that fundamental and very critical warning, that those in control whose responsibility it is to select and allow to come unto our islands as Investors, to provide those needed jobs – they are duty-bound to ensure that the newcomers have clean hands and good records.

We have had much more than our fair share of very unsavoury characters and con-men who have made huge sums from trading in our lands and beaches and good weather conditions, and leaving our treasury empty and the unemployment situation no better than before.

If we have not learnt our lessons from all those experiences – when those now in control were in full charge then – we never will again.

NDC election loss

By Michael “Ponty” Archibald

 

St. George’s, Grenada – “The NDC are their own worst enemies!” “I have never seen a party/government try so hard to lose an election!” “The arrogance of that little group in control of the NDC is amazing!” “That kitchen Cabinet – we did not elect them!”

Comments like those above were heard constantly in rum shops, private discussions, on the streets, in offices, around the country and read in newspapers in the final two years and months leading up to the 2013 elections.

It seems that the only people who did not hear them were the NDC leadership themselves. Or maybe they did but choose to ignore them in the usual arrogant confidence in their own rightness!

It appeared that the new members, many of them good solid people, selected to contest various seats after the controversial expulsion of the so-called rebel gang, had little influence in changing the approach and attitude of the entrenched inner circle.

Like most Grenadians I have my own views as to why the NDC lost the 2013 elections. As is usually the case there were many contributing factors but if I were to leave out, for the purposes of this discussion, the very well managed and focused campaign ran by the NNP, it is my view that many of those reasons can be grouped under three main headings of – (i) management of the economy, (ii) leadership and (ii) an inability to present a united front.

In the case of No (i), management of the economy, there is no questioning the difficult economic situation the NDC found itself in on assuming the reins of government; with the impact of the international economic recession and the combination of the size of both the monthly debt payments and the monthly wage bill as a proportion of monthly revenues – leaving the government with little room

to manoeuvre.

Given that difficult situation the NDC government’s negative attitude and poor treatment of potential foreign investors was very difficult to understand. Also very difficult to understand was the glaring lack of empathy in their statements and actions for the suffering public and the lack of emphasis on job creation in the face of very high unemployment; reported to be in excess of 40% by 2012.

The handling of the CCC matter with its potential for creating jobs is a case in point. Further they gave the impression that only they had the answers, nobody but them had the brains to understand the economic situation or the context in which the economy operated and while they never said so openly, one never felt that they were open to the suggestions, ideas and opinions of others not within their anointed inner circle.

I cannot count the number of times I, and many others like myself, were told that we simply did not understand. When you shut people out your thinking becomes incestuous and unproductively circular while you miss out on many good ideas and

suggestions that might have served to fertilise growth in our economy.

The end result of the above, among other things, was that the public did not accept their constant claims about better management of the economy as they could not see or feel the impact of that better management, if any; did not feel that the NDC government cared about their daily fight to make ends meet or their bread and butter issues.

The NDC government, it seemed, was above all that in a world all of their own.

The second area concerns the sensitive matter of the leadership of the NDC and Government by the Honourable Tillman Thomas. I first commented on what I saw as the shortcomings in the leadership competencies of the goodly gentleman as far back as 2008 much to the displeasure and indeed, anger, of the faithful.

As is their wont, they misinterpreted my comments as dislike of the goodly gentleman and as support of the NNP without ever attempting to objectively analyze what I was saying.

I repeat for the record that I was referring to competencies and have no dislike for the man whatsoever nor am I a supporter of any particular party – only Grenada.

To comment on just three of those competencies – first a leader must have or seek to develop a clear vision as to where he wants to take the country and must be able to competently articulate that vision in a manner that not only make that vision clear to the citizenry as a whole, but also makes them want to climb on board the movement to realise that vision.

In that regard the leader must also outline a broad direction in which he wants the country to travel towards achieving that vision. The details and specifics can be developed later with assistance of others but the road must be broad enough to accommodate some zigs and zigs as will be made necessary by circumstances, as long as the overall direction is consistent.

It could not be said that the NDC leader had developed or articulated clearly a compelling vision for Grenada. The constant repetition of the words transparency, accountability and good governance was not a vision.

Secondly a leader must demonstrate competence in the management of his human resources – his people; particularly his Cabinet, the senior members of his party but also senior civil servants, the media and the general public.

In the present world he/she must first be a consensus builder before the use of the big stick but be prepared to do so when all else fails. He must also be fair to all concerned, particularly his Cabinet colleagues and those immediately under his influence but also to the citizens as a whole.

Skill in human resource management was not demonstrated by the NDC leader as was obvious in the way in which the matter of the so-called rebels played out and neither was there fairness in the treatment of certain Cabinet Members in comparison to others.

The third competency I would comment on is technical competency and here I refer to his political skills, “savvy” or “smarts”. Political savvy or smarts would be hard to describe in this short paper but we know it when we see it.

Examples that raised eyebrows include – (i) Mr. Thomas’ admission to the press that he did not know or was not aware that the salaries of civil servants would be late one month, (ii) his not ensuring that strong supporters of his party who had carried out legitimate, and I stress legitimate, work or provided services to the

government were paid on time but instead were forced to wait months putting their businesses and livelihood in peril, (iii) his alleged attempts to have his wife appointed to a sensitive and senor position within the Service, (iv) his public announcement of his decision regarding a foreign investment proposal before the committee he himself appointed could even meet to consider the matter and (v) his handling of the entire situation regarding the controversial expulsion of (ten) senior members of his party and government.

As a result many concluded that the Honourable Tillman Thomas did not seem to have the political skills or savvy necessary to be a successful leader of a

modern political party.

I would argue further that he did not score very well in the three areas mentioned. No leader can be good in all the important areas of competency required of a modern leader but however he must be willing to listen, to diagnose and understand his areas of weakness and strive constantly to improve his performance in those areas – and it is here that he fared the worst.

Finally I will comment that there is a difference between stubbornness and determination.

The third and final area was the party’s and government’s inability to present a united front and to work together towards common goals. The disagreements that led to the eventual breakdown of relationships and eventual expulsion of eleven senior members of the NDC were visible early and got progressively worst.

The ongoing and deliberate leaks from one side in particular condemning

the other side in the harshest terms was like the terrible Chinese dripping water torture of long ago and made any reconciliation extremely unlikely.

In any event it was clear to onlookers from early on that one well-known group wanted the so-called rebels out and that serious attempts at reconciliation were not being made.

The vitriolic condemnation of his previous colleagues by the NDC leader, a man

constantly described as humane and religious, before and after the expulsion left many of us sitting in front of our television sets with mouths agape in disbelief.

The constant condemnation by the Deputy Leader simply made things worst in the eyes of the public. It was felt by many that if they would do that to their own colleagues then they could not really care about the rest of us and if they could not get together as adults and manage themselves and their party, then how could they be entrusted in the continuing management of the country.

There were other things of their own doing that worked against them of course, such as- (i) the constant blame game – Keith Mitchell, the worldwide recession, the debt, the rebels, the media, current affairs commentators, over and over ad neseum, a depressing and constant barrage of negativity, (ii) not enough time and focus spent in explaining the difficult economic situation instead of assigning blame and more importantly, in outlining their plans for the way forward, (iii) the arrogance and know it all attitude of the “kitchen cabinet”, (iv) their seeming inability to implement important projects (the projects were always “on stream” but somehow never got going) and (v) a poorly run campaign which focused largely on creating fear of Dr. Keith Mitchell – to name a few.

Indeed, the NDC had only THEMSELVES to blame! The question is – will they recognise this and make the necessary changes or continue to search for “OTHERS” to assign blame?

 

(The above was reproduced from Caribbean360. The opinions expressed are solely those of Michael Archibald – MBA(FS), FICB, AICB, is the principal of MBA Consultancy Inc)

 

 

Grenada’s restructuring adds to Caribbean’s debt troubles

By Eric Sabo

 

Grenada called on creditors to restructure $193 million of bonds ahead

of a coupon payment this week that the Caribbean island’s government said it can’t afford to make, eight years after its last debt swap.

“The global financial crisis has taken a heavy toll on the country and aggravated the severe debt overhang that continues to weigh down our economy,” Prime Minister Keith Mitchell said in an e-mailed statement on March 8.

“It is now time for Grenada to confront the fact that it cannot continue to pay its debts on current terms”, he added.

The island nation, which exports nutmeg and relies on tourism to fuel its $1.4 billion economy, has struggled to lower debt that may reach 109 percent of gross domestic product this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The government is due to make a coupon payment March 15.

Yields for Grenada’s dollar bonds surged to 17.35 percent on March 8, the highest among 12 Caribbean and Central American nations tracked by JP Morgan Chase & Co.’s CACI index, on investor concerns the nation would default after missing a coupon payment in September.

The government paid investors before the end of a grace period. The country’s dollar bonds have lost 5.2 percent over the past year.

Grenada, which was invaded by U.S. forces in 1983, would be the third Caribbean country to restructure its debt this year.

Jamaica said on March 1 that about 99% of bondholders agreed to swap 860 billion ($9.1 billion) of higher interest local debt for lower yielding bonds.

Belize is finishing negotiations on its second restructuring in five

years, after missing a $23 million coupon payment in August 2012.

 

Climbing Coupons

 

Marla Dukharan, an analyst with RBC Financial Caribbean Ltd in Trinidad & Tobago, said Grenada’s economy faces weak growth this year after suffering a 5.1 percent drop in tourism and an 82 percent reduction in grants in 2012.

“The prospects for growth revival in Grenada are slim in 2013, and given severe fiscal and liquidity constraints, the proposed debt restructure announced last week seemed inevitable,” Dukharan said today by e-mail.

“It would come as no surprise if this proposed restructure involves a haircut.”

While the previous government paid investors within a 30- day grace period, Mitchell, elected on Feb. 19, said Grenada won’t be able to meet its obligation on March 15.

The 4.5 percent coupon on the bonds was set to climb to 6 percent in September and reach 9 percent in 2018 as part of a restructuring agreement reached with creditors in 2005.

 

Hurricanes, Crisis

 

Struggling to recover from hurricanes and the impact of the global financial crisis, Grenada’s economy contracted an average of 1.2 percent a year from 2008-2012, while the 2005 debt restructuring assumed growth of 4.7 percent, Mitchell said.

Bondholders may have to take a “substantial haircut” as the government struggles to pay even public salaries, said Carl Ross, a managing director at Oppenheimer & Co., a brokerage firm.

“If you’re going to keep restructuring debt, you better get it right the second time,” Ross said in a phone interview from Atlanta.

The southeastern Caribbean nation had been rated CCC+ by Standard & Poor’s, putting the country of 109,000 in the same category as Jamaica and Cyprus.

The implications of Taiwan’s vulture fund strategy against Grenada

By Tim Fernholz

 

Taiwan’s Export-Import bank is using the toolkit developed by so-called “vulture funds” to sue Grenada in US court for failing to make good on a loan.

The Export-Import Bank of the Republic of China loaned the island country of Grenada some $28 million between 1990 and 2000, but it has stopped making payments on the debt, leading S&P to consider it to be in a state of selective default.

Grenada is paying creditors who worked with it to restructure its debt after two hurricanes, but the Ex-Im bank has refused to be part of that process.

The lawsuit, filed by the Ex-Im Bank on March 4, relies on the precedent established by American hedge funds who bought up cheap Argentine debt during the country’s default and are suing Argentina for full repayment.

That means relying on the “pari passu” clause in the bond, which demands equal treatment of all creditors, and targeting the debtors’ payment processor in the United States, once again Bank of New York Mellon, to force the debtor to pay all of its creditors, hold-outs and hair-cut takers alike, or no one.

This case touches on worries raised by the precedent set in the Argentina litigation: Will hold-out creditors be able to halt payments to other bond-holders until their concerns are satisfied, making restructuring a huge challenge, or will the inability of the courts to enforce its interpretation of the contract hurt the status of US financial markets?

Beyond each case’s individual winners and losers, neither outcome is particularly ideal for anyone – governments seeking to borrow money or the markets who lend to them.

That has some on Wall Street wondering if the filing might influence the judges that will rule on the Argentina case.

A research note circulating at JP Morgan wondered if pari passu litigation is “going viral,” and if that could lead the court to re-open arguments about how to interpret the requirement for equal treatment among bondholders.

“China vs Grenada … offers those who fear the unknown consequences from a potential upholding of the pari passu ruling against Argentina a piece of evidence that the ramifications of pari passu may well merit more consideration than the Court has been willing to admit so far,” the note continues.

“[If] Judges can be induced to entertain second-thoughts regarding the consequences of a potential adverse Argentina ruling (in this way or in others) then such developments could be relevant.”

The Caribbean after Chavez

Seventeen countries of the Caribbean face a heightened period of economic uncertainty now that Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, has died. Twelve of the 17 Caribbean countries are members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). They have become highly reliant on their oil supplies from Venezuela on a part payment-part loan scheme, called Petro Caribe, without which their difficult economic circumstances would be decidedly worse.

Of the $14 billion worth of oil that Venezuela provided under Petro Caribe to the 17 dependent countries up to last year, $5.8 billion constituted long-term financing. Cuba is the principal beneficiary but, in per capita terms, so too are a number of CARICOM countries – Jamaica particularly.

The attendant ALBA Caribe Fund (ACF) and ALBA Food Fund (AFF) – both financed almost entirely by Venezuela – are also significant contributors to the welfare of the beneficiary states. In six years up to 2012, the ACF had invested $178.8 million on 88 projects ranging from education to water. In 9 countries, the AFF had invested in 12 projects worth $24 million.

These were all the projects of Hugo Chavez personally. He carried his government along, but the ideas and their execution were entirely of his making. There are many theories about Chavez’s motivation.

One is that he wished to exercise control over reliant Caribbean countries in his passion to contest the influence of the US government and US companies in Latin America. Another is that he was genuinely concerned about the plight of the poor in all these countries and wanted to alleviate their suffering. It was very probably a mixture of both.

His relationship with Cuba is somewhat different. There, his ambition appeared to be to stop the 50-year US embargo of Cuba from being successful. In this regard, the economic support he provided to Cuba was as generous in its quantity as it was unstinting in its delivery. Estimates put delivery of oil to Cuba at 100,000 barrels a day at a subsidy of $3 billion a year.

Whatever the motivation for Chavez’s economic support for Caribbean countries other than Cuba, the reality is that – apart from Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago which did not join Petro Caribe or ALBA – their governments must all now be very nervous.

The big question for them is: will the Petro Caribe and ALBA arrangements, on which they are reliant, continue under a new Venezuelan President?

More than likely if Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, wins the Presidential election, the arrangements will continue for a while longer even if under amended arrangements. However, if the election is won by the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, both Petro Caribe and ALBA will unwind fairly rapidly.

Capriles, who lost last year’s Presidential contest against Chavez by a 10-point margin, has already indicated that the two schemes would end and the money focussed instead on the needs of the Venezuelan people.

For Venezuela’s neighbouring CARICOM country, Guyana, there is a further dimension to the uncertainty. Until Chavez’s Presidency, Venezuelan governments had maintained a sometimes aggressive claim to two-thirds of Guyana.

While the claim was never dropped under Chavez, and maps of Venezuela continue to include the claimed Guyana territory, he did not pursue it, choosing instead to involve Guyana in the Petro Caribe arrangements.

Maduro would be the most desirable winner for the Caribbean countries that rely on Petro Caribe and ALBA, and he probably will be elected the next President. It would be extremely difficult for Capriles to achieve a 6 per cent swing in the vote from last year’s elections in the context of the outpouring of grief over Chavez’s death, and in a short election campaign period.

However, Maduro does not have the grassroots support that Chavez personally built-up over 13 years as President, and even if he is elected, unless he balances delivering benefits to the people of Venezuela with keeping the military content, he will be hard-pressed by a virulent opposition to continue Chavez’s programme of spending Venezuela’s oil revenues on foreign countries.

Prudence dictates that no Caribbean country – except perhaps Cuba and Haiti – should expect the Petro Caribe and ALBA schemes to be business as usual. Venezuela has severe internal problems that are masked by its 5.6 per cent growth last year.

These problems include: a crisis in power supply; a recent devaluation of the bolivar that has increased the cost of living; a huge black market in US dollars at almost eight times the official rate of exchange; shortages in shops; rising inflation and most importantly stagnation in oil production.

Additionally, as a result of Chavez’s nationalisation of both foreign and local businesses, Venezuela is near the bottom of international rankings for attractiveness to foreign investors and ease of doing business.

Whoever is elected to the Presidency will have to tackle these urgent problems, and the money will have to come from cutting foreign give-away programmes such as Petro Caribe and ALBA.

While 12 CARICOM countries have good reason to mourn the passing of Hugo Chavez and to be thankful that he shared his country’s oil assets with them, the time has long past for collective investment in, and joint implementation of, projects for their energy security that are not a repeat of this enormous dependence not even on one country, but on one man.

No time should be lost in addressing this joint CARICOM task on which a crucial aspect of their economic survival depends – and both Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados must be included in the discussions.

New mutually beneficial arrangements with Venezuela and other oil and gas producers in all the Americas should be part of the joint strategy that is considered, as well as investment in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydro and geo-thermal power.

In the meantime, let us salute Hugo Chavez. Whatever the polarised attitudes to him in his own country, he made a meaningful contribution to many countries of the Caribbean region, and he embodied a fearlessness on the hemispheric and international scene that we would be grudging not to acknowledge and admire.

 

(Sir Ronald Sanders a Consultant, former Caribbean diplomat and Visiting Fellow, London University)

The ministers are named – Senators awaited

by Lloyd Noel

The clean-sweep Political Leader and now Prime Minister of our Tri-Island State, has since the victory appointed his Twelve Ministers of Government to take control of the Nation’s Administration – for as long as he sees fit in the months and years ahead of his party in power.

Up to the time of writing this Article Last weekend, only four Senators had been sworn in for the Upper House of Parliament – so it is hoped that by the time you are reading this, the Senate appointment will be in place.

One or two of the Ministerial appointments have raised eyebrows – especially that of the Minister of Education, M.P of St. Patrick’s West Anthony Boatswain.

But the Prime Minister is the Leader in charge, and since he had decided from the night of the Election results, that he was going to be Finance Minister among others – he had to find a position for his very long-standing Senior Minister of Finance of the thirteen years before 2008.

How that appointment would work itself out, only time will tell – but that very crucial Ministry of Education, will be on the Public agenda for particular attention in the times ahead – because from all accounts and reports pertaining to that particular Ministry, in the Four and a half years of the last Government, the ex-NDC Minister Franka Bernadine was credited as having done a very commendable job in that Ministry for the Kids and Education.

As for the other Ministries – especially where there are new political first-timers taking over control in these trying time – again only time, and how the newcomers apply themselves in their very unaccustomed setting, as politicians rather than Businessmen or women, their attitude and outlook will determine in the years ahead.

And as we slowly get things moving since the Election three weeks ago, there are rumours making the rounds – that one or two of those who were expelled from the NDC last year, and who were encouraging people in their respective Constituencies to vote NNP in the just concluded Election, they have approached the Executive to take them back on board.

I fail to see the rationale in such approaches, but I suppose they have their private agenda.

It could also be, that as we mourn the passing of the Venezuela President Hugo Chavez – at the fairly tender age of Fifty-eight – close buddies who had a whole lot of regard and respect for him as a socialist operator, they may very well be thinking it is much better to be mending bridges than breaking them down – hence the call for forgiveness.

However the late President was regarded, by people who did not share his political outlook and philosophy – he was a generous benefactor to our Tri-Island State and the OECS as a whole, and we must mourn his loss and send sincere condolences to his family and the people of Venezuela – who have truly lost a dedicated and sincere leader – may his soul rest in Peace.

Whatever maybe the reasons for some of the expelled members getting back into good graces with the party majority, those still in control of the party machinery would have to assess the same and decide where they go from here on into the dark future.

As for the new Government and party in control, after that landslide victory that gained for them absolute authority over all aspects of the nation’s affairs – the new Leaders have to ensure, that their actions and decisions are such, so that the people do not perceive them as being revengeful or spiteful.

The days for scoring petty political points must be relegated to the ancient dustbins.

In the Ministry for National Security which involves the Police Service, we have already seen some unusual happenings pertaining to the position of Commissioner of Police.

The Prime Minister has indicated that he was not very comfortable with the office holder, Commissioner of Police Willan Thompson, and he has now gone on (257) Two Hundred and Fifty-seven days leave with full pay; while the Ex- Commissioner of Police Winston James has been re-appointed to fill the post for however long down the road.

I doubt very much that all heads of the various Government Departments are more in favour of the current Prime Minister than they were of the Ex-Prime Minister – but it would be sheer nonsense to change all those who are not in favour of the new Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister and his party have already stamped their authority on the nation’s political landscape, by their resounding clean sweep at the Polls and all that is left to be done in the months and years ahead, can only be to convince those who voted for NDC, to be ready and prepared to Vote NNP the next time around – based on creditable and above-board performances, rather than spitefulness and revengeful intolerance.

 

America and the global economy

by Brian Francis

Once again, the United States of America has found itself in the middle of an immense battle to reduce the country’s growing Federal budget deficit that now stands at $1.045 trillion.

The battle over what is being referred to as “sequestration” is simply the automatic reduction in public expenditure by some $85 billion that would arise if Democrats and Republicans are unable to reach a compromise on ways to close the budget deficit.

The problem in America is that everything to do with the economy is being driven by economic ideology and political philosophy simultaneously.

The Democrats, led by President Obama, want to adopt what they term a “balanced approach” that would see not only reductions in spending but also increases in tax revenue.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are somewhat hesitant to raise taxes further because they believe that America is facing essentially a spending problem; not a revenue crisis.

Indeed, with Federal tax revenue of just under $2.5 trillion, it is extremely difficult for me to imagine that the United States is actually running such a large deficit on its current account. And, therefore, the logical solution to that country’s fiscal nightmare should rest with massive reductions in Federal spending.

The problem here is that politicians, especially those on the Democratic side, will never see cuts in spending as the way forward since the idea of creating a society that is “just” and one where income and wealth redistribution are critical, remains paramount in the “progressive” agenda.

Although a strong argument can be made with respect to the need to focus on expenditure-reduction as opposed to tax increases, we have to accept that we are living in the real world and that compromise is therefore the way to achieve any reasonable objective of deficit reduction.

Hence, it is clear that in order to resolve the present stalemate, there would have to be some cuts in spending as well as some increases in taxes. It is within this framework that what actually happens in America could pose some challenges for the global economy.

You see, macroeconomic theory teaches that cuts in expenditure and increases in taxes are both, by their very nature, contractionary economic policies. What this means is that they have the potential to slow growth within the economy in the absence of any mitigating circumstances.

It is for this reason that the International Monetary Fund has already expressed some concerns over the negative impact of the “sequester cuts” on the global economy. And, every country in the world should be very concerned over the future direction of the American economy within the context of sequestration.

Let us not forget that a problem that started in the housing market in the United States only a mere five years ago quickly made its way to other markets and economies throughout the world and even today some countries are still fighting to recover from these shocks.

Hence, it is way too soon for small countries such as Barbados and others in the Caribbean to have to face the adverse effects of a fresh global economic downturn.

That is why what is happening in America with respect to sequestration should concern us all.

 

(Dr. Brian Francis, the former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Bridgetown, Barbados of the University of the West Indies)

‘Trust me on this one’

by George ‘Umbala’ Joseph

 

“Cry My Beloved Grenada, Cry.” Or Forward Never, Backwards Ever.

Will the real owner of Grenada turn off the lights before he, or she leaves – please!

You see, a whole lot of people in Grenada behave as if they own the place! In truth, and in fact, they only work here; but they don’t know that, and nobody seems to have the courage to tell them that they are pushing Grenada back to the fifties, when King Eric bought his first, black prefect motor car and ran a ribbon from the bonnet to the door, as if it were a “V” for victory in his pristine white suit.

Those were the days of “Loyalty,” and “Dignity,” and “Sunlight” and “Mayfair” and “Eastern Pride” and “Victory” and “Eastern Star” and “Western Pride” and “Florida’s Pride” all painted by “Fowl Wings” that remarkable artist whose gift it was, not to have normal hands like everybody else’s, but painted the names of the buses in Gothic English Script like nobody in Grenada ever could.

Back then, people were people, and people knew their places; they had respect! It wasn’t like now, where every person with a motor car, and indoor toilet believes him, or herself to be “Miggle Kloss” with the right of passage with a behavioural pattern that serves as a disincentive for even returning Grenadians to turn their backs on the country of their birth, and never return to it.

There are petty officials, more particularly Immigration Officers who either do not know their jobs, or understand their functions.

Not for the first time, I have come face to face with what one who travels the world can call, “Insulters who don’t know better, and go out of their way to hurt Grenada.”

Since January 26th 2011, I have come to the conclusion that little people with a half-ounce of authority in Grenada abuse that authority with impunity, with no option of redress.

Imagine the Prime Minister in a democratic country, in his own land; in the V.I.P. Lounge, is boldly body-searched by the vulgar, herd of the jumped-up peasantry. And nobody was fired!

Where did their training come from? Who trained them in protocol and standard one diplomacy? Would they have dared to do this to Keith Mitchell, were he Prime Minister? Or was it designed to humiliate and embarrass the Honourable Prime Minister?

That nobody got dismissed from their job, as far as is known, is the worst for care!

As I write, four unsavory matters (I cannot call them incidents) come to mind.

I am the owner of all of that private island known as Isle de Caille. I pay my annual taxes as is expected of all of us who own property in Grenada, for without taxes the machinery of government will cease to function.

Word got to me in Trinidad where I have been living for most of my life. I have done well, and I am grateful to many people of Grenada, without whose help a whole lot of my achievements would never have been possible.

As I was telling you, word got to me that my personal home on the island was broken into; items stolen, and importantly, who the perpetrators were.

I called the St. Patrick’s police station: the Corporal in charge at the time, told me that the Detective for his District is based at Gouyave.

I called the station at Gouyave, I was informed that the Detective was away from the station.

I asked to speak with the senior officer in charge. I was in luck, I thought, when a Superintendent came to the ‘phone. I explained to him the related and pertaining circumstances. I further explained who my agent was, and all on-the-spot-information could be had from that person.

That, it seems, was my biggest mistake. That nasty man with authority, asked me: “You have papers to prove de lan’ is yours?” I couldn’t believe my ears!

On my next visit I took my ‘papers’ to show the son-of-a-b,,,, but I met only his juniors who only laughed when I told then the story and left them copies of ownership.

At the beginning of January 2010, I personally counted by automatic checker, 151 long-horn goats on the island. As I write, there exits not a single goat left. I called the Prime Minister’s office, in his capacity of Minister for National Security.

I told his Secretary of my plight and pointed out how, and where I was in a position to hurt Grenada and needed to be satisfied that people’s property would be respected. I was only wasting time!

Neither the Minister, or his Secretary gave me the satisfaction of returning my call. That told me a lot about the man and his Office.

The net result was a net loss to Grenada of probably 400 jobs, an American investor, flying all the way from the Midwest to invest in Echo Tourism and Theme Park with horned goats; left the island after two hours without seeing, “one goat,” as he departed.

Seeing me as an untruthful person, rather than a victim of Grenadian transgressors and police inaction, since I was too embarrassed to tell an investor that Grenadians are destroyers and thieves.

On this subject, I could write a book, since today’s Grenadian believes what belongs to you, is theirs to do what they will, and that means, destroy.

Since they don’t know the value of anything. Grenadians who have remained at home suffer from a serious bout of xenophobia and it transforms itself to xenophobic enviousness. They behave as if no one has the right to innovate or attempt to improve the quality of life even for their own ultimate benefit.

They make the problem with Grenada come to life when they give the impression that they are the authority in Grenada, and either out of misunderstanding their role, or because of their natural propensity for arrogance, they retard the plausible progress of the place.

And it is a very real problem because every government worker with some semblance of authority behaves like he, or she is a boss. The net result being: Grenada has too many a… behaving like bosses!

Another of my personal bitter experiences went like this: On the evening of September 11th 2012 I arrived on a LIAT flight from Trinidad. Not for the first time I recognized the rudeness some Grenadian Immigration Officers show upon seeing a Trinidad and Tobago passport presented to them, particularly when presented by a Grenadian-born traveller.

My misfortune on that evening was to meet up this fat, black, ugly woman in uniform needing to know what was the “nature” of my business in Grenada. A reasonable question, given that my Immigration card stated that I was in Grenada on business.

I explained, in my reply, that I had come to pay my workmen their wages.

“How much,” as distinct from “How many,” she asked, “Workers you have to pay?” “Five.” I replied.

“Put down dey names on the immigration form.”

I complied. She told me that I did not put the names of the workers on the correct side, and I should enter their names on the other side. I then marked down five fictitious names, different from the first set. Without even looking at the form, she said: “you could go now!”

I look at the P.R. hype welcoming people to “Kirani Country” and didn’t know whether to laugh, or cry because my basic human instinct told me that if 100 Kirani James should bring glory to Grenada one night, it would be sullied by some petty official by the next morning.

In 1992, twenty years ago, I wrote a Trinidad best-selling book, “Diary of a Candidate.” It was a book based on this writer’s foray into the General Election the previous year.

The book remained on the top of the best sellers list for 18 weeks. It sold thousands of copies. I thought Grenadians had a right to read of the exploits of another who had touched the world of T&T politics since Grenada was never omitted from the campaign.

Seems I was wrong to think that. I visited the public library

and offered my work to the Librarian, a woman. She listened, as I introduced the book, and myself.

She coolly replied: “we doh ha no money to buy no book!”

I said, “Ma’am, there is no need for immediate payment; I am Grenadian born, and I am in Grenada every six weeks; besides, you can post me a cheque whenever you like.

The woman looked me in the eye and asked me: “So, becaz you is ah Grenadian I mus’ buy yuh book? We don’t want no book.” I said: “Sorry, thank you, and goodbye.” And walked away.

This year, 2013, I was to read in the ‘Trinidad Guardian’, a story by Trinidad and Tobago’s foremost historian, Michael Anthony, about a visit he paid to the same library, no doubt, to the same Librarian.

Anthony wrote that he journeyed to Grenada to research the life of Grenada’s most powerful son who changed the face and life of Trinidad & Tobago, politically, and industrially, Tubal Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler.

Anthony related of how shocked he was to discover that not only could he not find any material on Butler; the Librarian claimed not to have ever heard of Tubal Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler. Ask any of Trinidad and Tobago’s schoolchild who Butler was, and they could tell you!

Oh, by the way: I took the same books I was offering to leave with her, to the St. George’s University. A Mr. Mc Gurk immediately accepted them and subsequently forwarded the cheque payment.

I have since gone-on to write and produce four more books and not one is in any ‘Library’ in Grenada. The people in charge don’t know what they are doing. They are hurting the

country. Stifling it!

Some years ago, I was ‘home’ in Gouyave. A loudspeaker traversed the terrain that day announcing that there will be a discussion on the “Eradication of Poverty” at my old “Alma Mater”, St. John’s Anglican School; the school of Mr. Miller, and “Teacher Eli” (Peters).

I was encouraged to attend. I was saddened to find that there were only eleven persons in attendance, including three persons at the head table.

The remaining eight were invited to address the head table at will. A Guyanese school teacher “Shaper’s School” spoke of the tomatoes he had produced in his back garden and sold to an hotel in the South of the island, and suggested that the same could be done by all and sundry.

As a “Gouyvarian” who was awarded the Trinidad and Tobago’s Humming Bird Medal, Gold, for services to small business, the only person, so far, thirty-one years ago; I felt that I would be a traitor to Grenada if I did not ‘say something’ on small business, or business on the whole.

I half-introduced myself with the intention of not creating a stir as to who I really was. Before I could start, the Chairwoman told me to “sit down since there were other

people waiting to speak.” She then asked: “Anyone else?” Nobody showed their hands, or got up to speak.

I was sitting next to Mr. Dolland “Fatman” of St. Peter’s Street, in Gouyave. Interestingly enough one of the three women at the head table was my ‘step wife’ who was, at the time, a Cabinet Minister.

I sat down! As demanded by the chairwoman. Mr. Dolland shouted to the Chairwoman, telling her to allow me to speak since he knew who I was. By this time I had already taken my seat and felt too humiliated to get up and say anything.

To my mind, it was Grenada’s loss. How ironic, I thought. I had just returned from a ‘paid-for’ lecture tour in Atlanta on Small Business, and here I was, a stone’s throw from where I

was born, at the very school I was weaned in the pursuit of an education, and I was being denied the opportunity to assist.

Truth be told, to this day, Grenada is without the knowledge or idea I might have imparted on that night.

I have since travelled and imparted that same idea I had in mind, and the idea was implemented and it is a boon to the people I have shown, how, not only to make money, but provide a service and a livelihood.

My next encounter was with a bookstore in St. George’s. As a marketing person who multitasks, I wrote and launched two books, simultaneously in the year 2000. I took the books to that bookstore, which is no more, at that address anyway.

The way local bookstores operate with Caribbean writers is like this: they deliver their books to the stores on consignment. The bookseller pays for what are sold, and the writers either take away that what didn’t sell, or leave them with the ones that did not sell, in the hope that they do sell

ultimately.

They dare not do so with foreign publishers. They have to

purchase their books from suppliers. Anyway, in this instance, I delivered the books to a local woman with a Scottish name, shortened for endearment.

The woman took possession of the books with a large window poster. The woman was not the owner of the bookstore, just the manageress.

I returned to the bookstore ten weeks later, I was gleeful that there were no books on the shelf, believing that all of the books were sold. I was wrong!

The books, and the poster were returned to me with the deadly words: “The Ladies’ committee of St. George’s say that those books should not be sold in Grenada.”

In shock at her words, I know better not to argue; I collected my property, and left the store. Of course, I sold them privately with rave reviews from those of them who purchased the works.

Grenadians have a serious problem with a paucity of mind and mindset, and if that problem remains, it, Grenada will always be with that plantation mentality.

There seems to be a type of xenophobia that plagues and blights Grenada and public servants, including the police, are the biggest perpetrators of this self-destructing miasma.

Grenadians on the whole are grossly ungrateful people who tend to either forget, or choose not to remember, or, at best, ignore their social responsibility towards honest development for the country’s good.

They seem not to either know, or think that they have a part to play in the building of their small country.

One may never want to accept the views as expressed about ingratitude, but can any one explain to me why Grenadians have named a street after Herbert

Blaize and Ben Jones, a highway and the lone airport after a man who violated the innocence of Grenada democracy, Maurice Bishop, and not even an alley, or lane was named after Eric Matthew Gairy?

It is as if E.M. Gairy had never lived, died, or buried in Grenada. Somebody should have to answer to that!

But that is our Grenada, an incubator to spawn Grenadians for other countries. A place where everybody wants to leave and maybe send something ‘home’, because that’s all it’s good for.

Those of them who stayed are resentful of those who left, believing that we were all Bluggo and Jacks people who have come back, to show-off on them but they are not having that.

So their resentment is worn on their sleeves and hems. So from time-to-time their expectations will hang high, and low as election time looms. The government will change and promises made will not be fulfilled, and more resentment will loom, and we’ll all return to square one, and nothing will change, not as long as the obscenities on the Lance in Gouyave continues anon.

But Grenada and Grenadians will never change. Not until and unless their attitude changes. If Grenadians change their government every Monday morning, and the people do not change their attitude, just once. Nothing

will happen! There’ll be no change! They’ll have to stop the envy. The hate. The spite, and the petty greed if they want to have a better Grenada to live in.

So they change their governments one hundred times and did not change the way they do business – just once, don’t hope, or expect anything good to happen to you.

Trust me on this one. I wouldn’t lie to you.

 

(George ‘Umbala’ Joseph is a Broadcaster/Publisher/Writer/Businessman/President of Civil Liberties Union of Trinidad and Tobago)

 

Port-of-Spain

 

Trinidad.

 

 

 

An IMF lead in Jamaica: Will other Caribbean countries have to follow?

Jamaica’s harsh experience with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), to get a new $750 million loan, signals equally harsh conditions for many Caribbean countries in the not too distant future.

The burden of the tough conditions placed on Jamaica by the IMF falls entirely on the Jamaican people and Jamaican businesses.

Under a National Debt Exchange Offer (NDEX), Jamaican holders of Government debt instruments are expected to exchange such instruments for new ones that, in some cases, will have a lesser value and in all cases will mature over a longer period at reduced rates of interest.

The NDEX was launched on February 12 with a closing date of February 21. By the time, this commentary is read the results of the offer will be known.

There are several important aspects of the NDEX that should cause other Caribbean countries to be troubled.

First, the IMF has made it clear that if there is not an NDEX, there would be no loan. Second, while Jamaican creditors are categorically required to join the debt exchange, foreign creditors are not. Third, the length of time from the launch of the NDEX to its closing was a mere 9 days. It had the feel of a gun to your head – do or die.

The IMF justifies the requirement for the NDEX on the basis that Jamaica’s debt is “unsustainable” – the official debt to GDP ratio is over 140 per cent. It rationalises not applying the same requirements to foreign holders of Jamaica’s debt instruments to join in the NDEX, by arguing that Jamaica must repay its foreign debt to give confidence to foreign capital markets in the future.

In as much as the latter point may be arguable, it is clear that the IMF insisted upon it as a pre-requisite of its loan, and the Jamaica government had no choice but to accept it.

There are now several Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) countries that are in programmes with the IMF as lender of last resort. They are there, in part, because their debt to GDP ratios are more than a hundred per cent or very close to it. After debt servicing, they have little money left to provide goods and services to their populations.

Now that the precedent of a National Debt Exchange Offer (the wold “offer” in this context is a misnomer if ever there was one) has been established in Jamaica, every Caribbean country that seeks an IMF loan, or an extension of it, can expect a similar requirement.

This will have consequences for those governments that have borrowed heavily from local statutory bodies such as social security and national health organisations. If those bodies are compelled to exchange existing debt instruments for ones that are less favourable, they will be depleting monies contributed by the public for pensions and health care.

The unfairness of the NDEX is that the entire burden falls on the local population; the foreign creditors are assured of being repaid even though they too took the risk of lending and should be open to the same requirements that apply to local lenders.

If the NDEX was the only condition applied to Jamaica it would be bad enough. But, there is more. The government also has to increase taxes and introduce a raft of new ones. Spending must also be reduced. This means public service retrenchment and a cut back on infrastructural projects.

Whether this bitter medicine will cure the needy Jamaica economy, or worsen it, is left to be seen. What is certain is that Jamaicans are now in for a tougher time. The IMF Executive Board will meet in March to judge whether the government has met the pre-conditions for the loan of $750 million spread over four years.

The Jamaican government does not have much of an option. There are no “white knights” on the IMF Executive Board championing the cause of Jamaica or any other developing country in similar circumstances, and arguing for less harsh conditions.

And, with 55% of government earnings going toward paying back debt and 25% being spent on wages, only 20% is left for everything else – including education, security and health.

A few other Caribbean governments are at the same point as Jamaica or pretty close. Their fate will not be much different, unless they implement policies that reduce their borrowing significantly particularly within their own domestic economies; find creative ways of increasing export revenues including in tourism and the creation and sale of new services; reduce government spending on unnecessary projects; and encourage the private sector – both local and foreign – to take on more of the capital risk and to increase employment.

In other words, governments have to re-think their roles – focussing on facilitation and regulation rather than competing with the private sector. Further, governments have to build genuine partnerships with the private sector and trade unions.

Caribbean governments also have to stop treating the opportunities that regional economic integration offers as though they do not exist or are not worth pursuing. The integration of the factors of production – natural resources, capital, management know-how and labour – can increase production and export earnings.

Perfecting the Caribbean Single Market remains a vital step in this process. And, of course, that won’t happen if governments persist in the decision made two years ago to ‘pause’ integration.

A joint Caribbean approach to external debt negotiation, including with the IMF, would also give the region more bargaining strength. It is not beyond the creativity of regional technicians to work out how.

CARICOM countries should be swimming together; right now many of them are sinking alone.

 

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

The results is no surprise – only the size

The majority of the registered voters in our troubled State spoke very decisively on Tuesday 19th February – when they returned the New National Party (NNP) and Dr. Keith Mitchell back into control of the nation’s affairs, with a whitewash victory at the Polls.

But for one reason or another, or a combination of reasons – the number of voters for the two major parties, and the few individuals who contested Island-wide, the figures showed over Ten Thousand Registered Voters did not vote.

Whatever the reason or reasons for those stay-away citizens decisions of not voting, they alone know them and will have to live with them, as the nation and our people struggle through the coming years.

Whether the non-voters decisions would have made any significant difference to the results – no one knows, but it leaves the result open to some speculation.

And of much greater concern, is the fact that there is no one in the lower house of Parliament – to raise any issue on behalf of the voters who voted for the NDC; whether one of the Fifteen “Green” winners, would jump off the ship of state to become a lone opposition operator – only time and the changing circumstances would determine in the weeks and months ahead.

I must be candid and admit – that I have already heard of one winner, who is not on the frontline pages of the Leader of the pack – so who knows, time and the wind of change may very well come to the rescue of the Parliamentary stalemate.

Strange enough – this is the second time we have had a clean sweep of all the seats in the Lower House of Parliament, and in both cases in 1999 and 2013, Dr. Keith Mitchell and his NNP have been the outright winners.

I would certainly hope, that because of this unique state of affairs the goodly Doctor would fully appreciate the unusual circumstances, and the fact that he must be the sole cause or reason for the level of such total support – and in the upcoming months and years, adopt a different approach to the way he leads and manages his team in Government, and treats and relates to the people as a whole in the exercise of his extensive powers.

We heard of all the accusations and complaints made against him, in the years leading up to the 2008 Elections – and there was no doubt, that the unholy alliance which was formed to run against his team in that Election, and won convincingly at the Polls – they did so based on those allegations and complaints.

But right up to the recent campaign, from which he won so convincingly, not one concrete action was forthcoming against him, and the people by their Islandwide approval have demonstrated that they have dismissed the char ges.

So now that the people have spoken very loudly and clearly, by their unanimous approval of all his candidates, and by more than Ten thousand votes in that land-slide victory on February Nineteenth – those who were making all the complaints and allegations, will just have to let go and keep on monitoring the happenings in the months and years ahead.

The victorious Leader and his winning Team, should not take or see this victory as an unbridled opportunity to just do as they very well please – because there is no one in the Lower House of Parliament to question their actions and omissions.

As far as the Upper House of Parliament, or the Senate as it is described in our Constitution – the Prime Minister has the right to appoint Seven Senators, and the Opposition Leader normally appoints three Senators – but in the absence of any opposition, I would imagine the Governor General can still hold discussions with the losers Leader, and the Governor General can appoint Three Senators who are known NDC Members.

The other Three Senators to complete the Upper House of thirteen members, these are normally appointed after discussions between the Governor General and the Prime Minister, to decide on representatives from the Business and wider community to bring some balance to the Senate of thirteen Seats.

So that if this procedure is followed, in the unusual circumstances now existing, the Government would still have its majority in both houses of Parliament, to conduct the nation’s business as the winning party in control.

And although the NDC is not in Parliament as the official opposition, its officials would still have some responsibility to overlook the happenings as they occur, and let their voices be heard.

After the losing party has conducted its own post-mortem, as it were, to assess where it went wrong and chart a course for the future – as well as to decide who remains in what position in the party structure – they will still be expected to let their voices be heard on national issues, in the interest of the people who voted for them.

As for the winning party now in control of the Government, with no official opposition in our parliament – all eyes will be on them, as they go about conducting the Nation’s business in the upcoming months and years down the road.

It is to be expected, that the party’s members and close associates will be first in line for special favours and considerations – but those in control must never forget, that Grenadians as a whole have the right to enjoy their Constitutional rights and freedoms and the protection of the Law.

We have gone through much more than our fair share of denials of basic rights over the years, and now that the huge majority of our people, have again placed their trust and confidence in Dr. Keith Mitchell – as the Prime Minister and Leader of his Party and Government of our Tri-Island State, I very deeply hope and sincerely expect him to show, that he has risen over and above the campaign rhetoric and rallies piccong, and ready to display that level of maturity and states-man-ship, in keeping with the distinguished stature he has now attained, of being Prime Minister for over Eighteen Years by virtue of the latest victory.

Our people deserve a break from the chaos and rat-race they have been forced to endure for all those years, and who better to give them that break than our longest serving designated Prime Minister.

Whatever are the plans and policies of the newly elected Government for the next five years – only time and the unfolding events for the upcoming years will determine in due course.

As for the convenient get-together of those power-seekers who managed to hoodwink the Electorate in 2008 and obtained control of the reins of power – which they made a mockery of in the past four years – also time and whatever they resort to in the coming months will tell.

But the new controllers, and the Prime Minister in particular, can now be as magnanimous as he likes, and set our people and Tri-Island State on a brand new pathway towards a very forgiving and enlightened beginning.

Whether the new controllers of the reins of power – will see it fitting to adopt that strategy, only time will tell as the months and years roll on.

But there can be no doubt that the situation as now obtains, presents a whole lot of opportunities to really chart a new course for the development of our people and tri-Island State in the years ahead.

I can only wish all the winners and the Team as a whole – the very best in their endeavors to bring relief and a higher standard of living opportunities to all our people.