Political Games: Salary Increases, Gratuity, Patriotism and Sacrifice

by Sandra Ferguson

Ah believe in giving Jack he jacket and Jill she petticoat!! (Nowadays, in this era of “gender equality”, the politically correct thing to do may be to give Jack a petticoat in addition to the jacket and likewise, give to Jill a jacket in addition to the petticoat. So to be on the safe side, give an ensemble of jacket and petticoat, whether to Jack or to Jill. Or, should one ditch the ensemble and just give a FUR CUP à la the Singing Emcee? A fur cup seems to be “gender neutral” and therefore very much politically correct.)

So when I heard the good doctors – the Political Leader and his trusted lieutenant, the Hon. Minister of Health – on The Show, hosted by the Press Secretary on November 12th, I had to tip my imaginary hat!! DEY HA DEY BELLY.

A Political Game:

The Rt. Hon. Doctor was the opening act with a political harangue, more suited, I thought, to his upcoming Party Rally and Convention. But at the end of the harangue, he apologized and asked for forgiveness, ADMITTING that it was all a GAME called politics which he could play much better than his political foes.

The theme of his harangue focused on sacrifice and patriotism for the success of the Structural Adjustment Programme!!??

“Removal from the Equation”:

The following lines of the opening act by the Rt. Hon. Doctor caught my attention:-:

He and his team were “putting citizens’ interests first”.

SACRIFICES HAVE TO BE BORNE. The more sacrifice borne, the more credit had to be given.

He said he wanted to “remove Keith Mitchell from this equation” since he would not be seen as making the biggest sacrifice.

Those were very significant observations being made by the Rt. Hon. Doctor.

When the Rt. Hon. Doctor says, “remove Keith Mitchell from the equation”, he is being quite “francomen”.

Many, in particular teachers, would recall years ago when, in response to teachers’ demand for increased wages, the Political Leader advised the nation that he did not depend on his salary to pay his mortgage!!

Perhaps, it is “this removal from the equation” which PREVENTED the Political Leader from appreciating the CONSEQUENCES of the RECKLESS BORROWING pursued by his government when it got into office in 1995, SQUANDERING the creditworthiness to which Grenada was restored following a four year period of fiscal discipline, burdens and sacrifices borne by the people of Grenada.

National Debt and the 2003 Election Campaign:

Regrettably, the Rt. Hon. Doctor cannot be congratulated for his HINDSIGHT when he announced that “sacrifices have to be borne”. The people knew it, they had lived it! That is why the National Debt was an issue of the 2003 election campaign. At that time the National Debt was just about sixty percent of Gross Domestic Product.

When the alarm was sounded, what was the response then of the Political Leader and his Real Economist who was charged with the stewardship of the Grenada’s economy? The Real Economist DISMISSED those who raised the alarm as political jokers.

He told the nation – it is not the size of the debt but the ability to pay!! And we the people were concerned because WE KNEW that it would be we the people who would be called upon to make sacrifices and bear the burden of the debt repayments. In the meantime, the Real Economist, instituted a strategy of “BORROW HERE TO PAY THERE!”

Borrow Here to Pay There:

So, for example, in 2002, Grenada “ issued a (US)$100mn international bond on the capital market yielding 9.5 percent to consolidate its debt, retire more expensive debt and pay down on outstanding arrears.

With the funds raised government restructured its recurrent obligations by opting out of onerous commercial lease purchase contracts for the National Stadium and the Ministerial Complex. Government also cleared its outstanding claims to small contractors and paid down on arrears to the National Insurance Scheme.”1

Note well the US100 million international bond issue!! It is likely to feature quite prominently in the Debt Restructuring and the Structural Adjustment Programme. Those are among the key creditors, to whom the Rt. Hon. Doctor has proposed a HAIRCUT.

Paris Club Debt Restructuring, Commercial Debt Restructuring and Step-up Repayments:

And then, after Hurricane Ivan hit and Grenada could not meet its debt payments, the Real Economist restructured our debt re-payments. So we got a respite in the first instance and then, when we started paying, each year the payment was stepped up. Each year, the debt burden was increased.

The Six Percent Increase – Scoring Cheap Political Points:

The Rt. Hon. Doctor’s opening act also featured lines on the Six Percent Increase: –

A Cabinet decision had given effect to the salary increase. It was a morally correct decision.

Personally, he had opted not to take his increase. “I have my own private business”, he declared. ( No wonder therefore, the Rt. Hon. Doctor has asked to be “removed from the equation”).

Most of his government ministers had decided that the Six Percent Increase was “getting in the way” of the Structural Adjustment Programme and the future of the country.

Most, NOT ALL, of his Parliamentarians had decided to forego the increase and he would defend the minority who may opt not to forego their increase.

He described as “morally bankrupt” those who suggested that ministers should not accept their six percent.

It was the view of the Rt. Hon. Doctor that those who had decided to forego the increase had made the “right political call”

His lieutenant, the other Hon. Doctor, advised the nation “to do the Maths” and they would realize that the Six Percent Increase amounted to just $45 per month which could not make a lot of difference in the economy. The Hon. Doctor did not elaborate on the Maths so I am unclear as to how she arrived at “the answer”, $45 per month.

So there we have it from the “doctors’ mouth” – SCORE A FEW CHEAP POLITICAL POINTS!! Remember what the Rt. Hon. Doctor said – it is all a GAME!! I can play it better than my political foes!!!

Gratuity of Parliamentarians- Patriotism, Shared Sacrifice and Political Games:

In another “scene” of the opening act, the Rt. Hon. Doctor advised that those of his team who had served in opposition during the NDC tenure in government had taken a decision to forego the gratuity earned for the period, approximately $30,000. And then he launched into a TIRADE about those deceitful “moralists” and “soldiers for Christ”: –

He called upon them to also forego their gratuity as a matter of SHARED SACRIFICE. He added that he WOULD NOT REST until he got those letters from those moralists!!

He hoped and prayed that those “moralists would come around”.

He also made references to Cabinet Ministers who awarded scholarships to their children while “poor people children could not get a dime” and there were no drugs in the hospital.

The Rt. Hon. Doctor mentioned the figure of $1 million. I am unclear as to how he arrived at that figure. Is it the total gratuity that would be due to all Parliamentarians who served during the last period? He concluded his tirade by calling on all Parliamentarians in the “interests of the suffering masses of the country”. Right is right! Wrong will always be wrong!! WHEW!!!!!!!!!!!!!

“Debts that You Created”:

The Hon. Doctor, co-star of The Show, challenged the “MOUTHERS” to forego their gratuity to “ help us pay the debts that you created”. She was making particular reference to the ARREARS owed by Grenada to a number of institutions which provide services and goods to the health institutions in Grenada. She also advised that a number of payments had been brought up to date. Bravo!!

But aren’t payments to these institutions a NORMAL OPERATING COST of the Ministry of Health? How does PURCHASES FOR SUPPLIES – even though payments are in arrears – become “debts that you created”?

Politicians tend to suffer from AMNESIA and perhaps the Hon. Doctor’s memory needs a little “jogging “ to be reminded of what really are the “debts you created”? Here are a few examples: –

How much did the new hospital opened in 2001 cost again? How much did Grenada pay to put up a structure that some 12 years later still cannot be PAHO certified?

And how much did Grenada spend to refurbish the old hospital just before it was blasted out of existence? Under whose watch did this occur?

And what about the steel frame that is waiting to be demolished? How much did that cost? Did a Minister of Health assure we the people that this structure would be ready to accommodate any demands re the hosting of World Cup Cricket in 2007?

And what about TRAFFIC LIGHTS? How much did this cost the nation? How many of them working now?

And what about DESALINATION PLANTS? How much did these costs? And how many of them ever worked?

And the River Antoine Organic Banana Farm fiasco?

And the Seamoon CALL CENTRE that was run by Lev Model?

And the USD11 million LOAN GUARANTEE to Grenada Development Company which disappeared with the money?

And one could go on and on and on….

Ministers’ Salaries:

In making a case for higher salaries for ministers, the Hon. Doctor also acknowledged that “ a game was being played” and the media was being distracted. They were not reporting on “the New Economy”!

She also seemed anxious to impress upon the audience the SACRIFICE made by people who entered public life and was concerned that “when we leave”, nobody will want to step forward.

There is no doubt that the matter of Ministers’ salaries needs to be addressed. However, there is probably a good reason why the Permanent Secretary gets a higher salary than a Minister.

It is the Permanent Secretary who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry NOT the Minister! But since Independence things have become rather blurred, made worse by the political interference, politicization and lack of accountability within the public service.

It appears that no one is sure any longer of what is their role. But in any event, the decision to enter public life is a voluntary and personal one. So for now, in this era of austerity, IF YOU DOH LIKE THE PAY, DOH APPLY FOR THE WUK!!

Structural Adjustment Programme – a Window of Opportunity:

The closing act of The Show again featured the Rt. Hon. Doctor. From my point of view, he made some rather startling pronouncements:-

The debate was about stopping the SUCCESS of the Structural Adjustment Programme. Without a successful Structural Adjustment Programme, ALL HELL WOULD BREAK LOOSE!!??

The Rt. Hon Doctor concluded, “Even if ah try, ah couldn’t tell lies like them! They would beat me!” (This was a reference to his political opponents!)

I was rather taken back that the Rt. Hon. Doctor was celebrating a Structural Adjustment Programme(SAP)! After all, the NATION DOES NOT YET KNOW what it is in for. I thought of the late George Brizan and all the insults that he had endured while the then Hon. Doctor, as Opposition Leader, PLAYED HIMSELF AND HIS GAME!

Remember the caricature of KING KONG!! God bless George Brizan! Ah really wish de dead woulda rise from the grave!!

Dey Ha Dey Belly:

I thought that the entire performance was amazing! I was stunned!!

Political Games: I was taken aback at how both doctors UNABASHEDLY declared that it was all a “political game”. As our political leaders engage in gamesmanship and score cheap political points, it is always the people that suffer. As ole’ people would say, “what is joke for school children, is DEATH FOR CRAPAUD”!!

Sacrifice: While the Political Leader made grand pronouncements about sacrifices required by citizens and calls on the former parliamentarians of the “other side”, to share the sacrifice, HE ADDED INSULT TO INJURY when he blithely declared,“ I have my own private business!”

The Future of Grenada: And when the Rt. Hon. Doctor declared that the Structural Adjustment Programme was the future of Grenada, I almost fell off my chair!! But then, recall the previous earnest admonitions of the Rt. Hon. Doctor – WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND!!

What a PERFORMANCE by the good Doctors!! One must give FUR CUPS where fur cups are due – one for the Rt. Hon. Doctor and one for his trusted lieutenant, the Hon Doctor. DEY HA DEY BELLY!!

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