The lessons of November 6

The Barack Obama victory in Tuesday’s Presidential Elections in the United States would have been welcomed by most Caribbean politicians but moreso those in Grenada and Barbados where the incumbents in office would soon have to go back to the electorate to try and renew their mandates.

Despite the huge problems within the United States, President Obama was able to withstand the winds of change that blew out some governments around the world and to get the American voters to give him another four years in the White House to continue with his plans aimed at restructuring the U.S. economy.

The ruling parties in both Grenada and Barbados would have to look carefully at the strategies developed by the Democrats and the President to remain in office.

It can be argued that the advent of Super Storm Sandy was a timely intervention in favour of President Obama.

The storm was able to slow down the momentum that was seemingly going in the direction of Governor Mitt Romney and helped the Democrats to refocus their strategies.

Undoubtedly, the President was able to use the Oval Office to good effect to demonstrate effective leadership and send a clear message to the people in the most affected areas of the disaster in New York especially Long Island and Staten Island that the Government would do whatever is necessary to ease their plight.

The approach to handling the economy by both the Democrats and Republicans was a major factor in influencing the manner in which Americans voted.

As one Caribbean commentator noted this past week, “The economic problems in the United States are real and if not addressed with a clear plan, not only will that economy crumble, but so too will the global economy.  Let’s face it.  Unemployment in the United States is just under 8%, the National debt exceeds $16 trillion, the federal budget deficit is just over $1 trillion, the rate of growth of the economy (although improving in recent times) is only 2%, poverty is on the increase, the number of people on food stamps has soared, and the median incomes for several categories of Americans have declined.  These are by any standard major economic challenges that would require carefully crafted policies to resolve”.

Here in Grenada, the Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) government in St. George’s would have to develop a strategy similar to the Democrats in the U.S. to present to the Grenadian people in the upcoming general elections that another five years are needed to help restructure the local economy after 13 years of rule by a previous administration which left behind a huge national debt and an economy that was not build around solid investment in the productive sectors of the economy.

The former New National Party (NNP) government of Dr. Keith Mitchell is similar in outlook to the Republican Party of Governor Romney. Coincidentally, the two of them are sister parties in the right wing International Democratic Union (IDU).

It was not surprising to hear the NNP suggest that the Caribbean have been better served in the past under the Republicans. This might have something to do with the decision taken by a Republican President, Ronald Reagan along with another group of right-wing leaders in the Caribbean such as late Prime Ministers Eugenia Charles of Dominica and Tom Adams of Barbados to send troops into Grenada in October 1983 to end the island’s flirtation with leftwing revolution.

The U.S Military action opened the door for Dr. Mitchell to return to his homeland and engage in active politics since during the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution, he was declared persona non-gratis and was branded by the PRG Leadership as a counter-revolutionary and an alleged agent of the U.S Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Prime Minister Thomas and his team would have to look carefully at some of the strategies used by  President Obama to remain in office for another term and to try and adopt those that are relevant to our situation.

The Democrats were able to get their people out in numbers to vote on Election Day. The NDC will have to not only do the same thing but to surpass the efforts of NNP in this particular area by putting together the right machinery.

In addition, Congress will have to find a way to convince the Grenadian people that the policies that were pursued by the Mitchell government during 1995 and 2008 left the island much poorer and very vulnerable to the shocks of the international economic and financial crisis that are similar to the Great Depression of the 1930’s.

It would be a travesty of justice for the NDC to allow the NNP to inherit the work in train for the rebuilding of Parliament in light of committed funds from the Governments of Australia and the United Arab Emirates, and guarantees from the Export/Import Bank of the People’s Republic of China that the U.S. ($100) one hundred million dollars would be given to build a five star hotel in the Mt. Hartman/Hog Island area.

In 13 years, the Mitchell government was not able to build one single hotel of note that could have put the island on the map where tourism is concerned. The NDC, whether through a fate of luck, has been able to see Sandals emerge with more than one foot resting on the island.

The only two governments since our independence on February 7, 1974 that embarked on a serious project that brought long-lasting benefits to our people were the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) of late Prime Minister, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy and the left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of executed Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop.

Sir Eric was able to demonstrate vision with the advent of St. George’s University (SGU) despite the propaganda from the main opponent of the day – the New Jewel Movement (NJM).

Today, hundreds of Grenadians are direct beneficiaries of the school whether in direct employment as members of faculty and staff, as well as those home-owners who collect good rent for their properties, and business operators especially those in the supermarket business.

In the case of Bishop, he took the bold step to embark upon an international airport at Point Salines that is truly the gateway to and from Grenada in terms of stay-over visitors for our hotels and the export of some of our most perishable products to North America, Europe and elsewhere.

No other government has had the vision like Gairy and Bishop to embark upon a single project that has provided so much economic and financial spin-offs for our people.

Prime Minister Thomas himself will have to convince the electorate that the NDC now has a settled team, free of those disruptive elements who were correctly expelled at his party’s annual convention on September 30th, 2012 at Seamoon, St. Andrew’s.

He would have to try and sell this team as one that is capable of doing the transformation that is so badly needed of the Grenadian economy. The country can ill-afford to return to the days of globe-trotting by politicians to beg and borrow on the international scene and to use the funds to spend on projects that cannot pay back for themselves.

Secondly, Prime Minister Thomas as part of the strategy to go forward will have to reach out to those persons in the country who share a similar philosophical outlook with Congress – unlike those who tried to hijack the party in recent years – and to bring these positive and progressive people on board with him in order to help in serious nation building.

The NDC alone cannot hope to do all the things that are necessary to get Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique moving once again on a path towards sound economic growth and development.

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