By J. K. Roberts
Social and moral decadence is universally evident in Grenada, and this is not limited to the horrible criminal and violent acts. Most depressing is that the institutions of authority, including religious persons, have been compromising on essential principles and caressing the young people into a false sense of rights, virtues, hope and prosperity.
This indecorous state of affairs may be explained as being characteristic of the ongoing Spiritual warfare for the ‘soul of man’, in which unrighteousness and vulgarity are being facilitated by political policies and practices, by the penetration of foreign cultures and accommodation to global dictates, and by the influence of post-modern philosophies.
Post-modernism opposes traditional norms, absolute truth and objective reality; and moreso it discredits the existence and commandments of God.
Empirical evidence on Grenada’s “consistent path of economic expansion since 2013 and is poised to experience its fifth consecutive year of growth in 2017” eludes the average citizen; as they continue to grapple with a barrage of austerity measures, high cost of living and taxation, spiraling unemployment and impoverishment, and failing health and education systems.
The persistent fiscal surpluses and the bright economic prospect boasted by the Government have being festering into industrial unrest, public outcries, national despair and a social time-bomb.
The uncertainty and bewilderment of the people to benefit from the so-proclaimed “successfully completed three-year Home-grown Structural Adjustment Programme” which ended in December 2016 remain, as the 2018 Budget Statement declares “…if the fiscal space allows, we will consider a number of measures, aimed at bringing fiscal reliefs….(to) our people”.
Even without the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance defining and qualifying that “fiscal space”, the reality is that major indicators towards its achievement are not conducive.
Grenada lacks solid productive and agricultural investments; the integrity of the Citizenship By Investment programme is in unabated debates, the economic viability of the Bolivarian Alliance for Our Americas (ALBA) is threatened by the political upheavals in Venezuela; the Trump’s National Security Strategy for the United States of America, as well as the phenomena of the exit of Britain (Brexit) from the European Union (EU), present new challenges for Caricom; President Trump’s threat to withhold billions of dollars in aid for countries that voted at the United Nations General Assembly against his unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not ‘fake rhetoric’; and the EU blacklisting which can trigger more scrutiny on Grenada’s creditworthiness and transparency by international financial institutions, is not for comfort.
In fact; that “fiscal space” is in limbo when the public debt is being concealed, taking Grenada into a ‘debt trap’ with the mortgaging of the nation, and when there has been the need to pass a Supplementary Appropriation Bill for over eighty-six point seven million dollars in July 2017, months after pronouncing the 2017 Budget Statement for approximately one point one billion dollars in December 2016, and to have enacted immediately the controversial 2018 Budget Loan Authorisation Act that allows the Minister of Finance to borrow up-to one hundred million United States dollars after presenting the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure of over one billion, one hundred and twelve million, and thirty-nine thousand dollars in December 2017.
The economic and social predicament which the country faces would not only be worsened in the year 2018, but the situation could be disastrous with the pending general elections and the Atlantic hurricane season.
The impact from any of these incidents will depend on the level of consciousness and preparedness of the citizens on the pertinent issues; but unfortunately, this is of no concern to the personnel of authority.
Particularly, the response by the authority to a hurricane-disaster would be reactive and ad hoc, and ineffective with tremendous damage which cannot be retrieved and the citizens having to undergo a period of stress and sacrifice.
Grenada has a marked history with the political revolution in March 1979 and with the military massacre in October 1983; that period from 1979 to 1983 has been void of a constitution and of democracy.
The years which followed have seen political polarity heighten into political tribalism, and it seems that with political maneuvering within the restored democratic framework, this trend is heading again for open political clashes with casualties.
The election campaign, election process and the election outcome will be very challenging for the citizens; and so too will be the governance by the succeeding administration. Moreover, the election could realise a paradigm shift in the ‘political dynamics’ which can be disastrous for Grenada unless there is Divine intervention.
It is pitiful to acknowledge that Grenada’s assets, patrimony and sovereignty are at stake; but the citizens need to defend it to the end.
Indeed the 2018 elections would be momentous in many aspects. The amount of candidates in the elections may well be unprecedented and the resultant form of government may even be unexpected.
If the votes split significantly amongst the candidates but without any political party gaining a majority of the parliamentary seats, then there could be anarchy, especially resulting as disapproval of supporters, with the coming together of ‘bitterly vicious’ candidates to form a government.
In fact, presently, behind the scene discussions and under the table business by some candidates may well be happening, despite the public rivalry and ridicule.
Grenada has been used to assist in the aftermath of the severe hurricanes (Irma and Maria) which devastated some countries in the region last year; but were any lessons learnt for local purposes, especially from the problems encountered in the rescue, relief and recovery process?
Most of the bad and sad statistics associated with a hurricane does not occur directly during the natural incident but from the circumstances emanating from the disaster.
How applicable and workable is Grenada’s National Hurricane Strategic Plan, if any, and is the public sensitised on such plan? Has there been any allocation in the national budget towards the implementation of the plan? Are there special legislative and regulatory provisions to support the plan?
What is the mobilisation mechanism established, especially considering the layout and nature of the road network and the topography and communities-spread of the country?
What are the institutional arrangements with professional bodies concerning the expeditious assessment of damage and settlement of claims? Is food security guaranteed, which should also take into consideration storage and distribution facilities for extra imported foodstuffs?
Heavy equipment and medical materials ought to be deployed, with the human resource identified, at the community level, before the onset of the hurricane season.
Whilst the ritual is to extend a bright and prosperous and happy new year to all, and to have optimistic resolutions, it is not out-of-place to alert the nation on the high probability of the occurrence of disasters, based on critical analyses, clear trends and the dire consequence.
(J. K. Roberts, is a former public officer and now considers himself as a Sound Public Policies Advocate)