A BANKRUPT ECONOMY

It is often said that the calypsonian is the peoples’ spokesman because he reflects in song the vibes and sentiments of the people. How true?

In 1998, the Barbadian calypsonian, Red Plastic Bag (RPB), sang a song entitled, “Material.” In that song, the lyrical master said: “Trouble, every year calypsonians in trouble, it’s so hard to find material…but this year have no fear ’cause Plastic Bag is here.”

With those lyrics in mind, THE NEW TODAY is once again forced to reflect on the current state of the economy in Grenada especially in light of some startling revelations from Aliona Cebotari, head of the IMF team that just concluded a visit to the island.

Oh, how this newspaper wish that someone or something could come forward to provide the much needed “materia” to allow us to resolve what clearly now seems to be insurmountable economic woes facing Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) administration.

Sadly, from the look at things, it does not seem as if we in Grenada will ever be so lucky as to have someone in economic circles to provide us with “material” to help us avoid the clutches of the IMF and the Chemotherapy treatment that is so badly needed for the sick patient known as Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.

Do we have capable Grenadian economists in and out of the region who can make a real difference in the present situation? Why aren’t the skills of these people tapped and given the chance to do so?

Only seven months ago, Dr. Mitchell and his NNP were ranting and raving all around the country claiming that the NDC had failed miserable in its management of the economy and that the NNP is now presenting itself to the people of Grenada as the “saviour” since under Congress and “Uncle Tilly the island had become “a failed State”.

After all, the recent general election of February 2013 was supposed to be “deliverance” time for the country and economy.

And you know what: Dr. Mitchell and his NNP have delivered! They have delivered continued economic nightmares so much so that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now declaring the economy of Grenada “bankrupt” and that the country is once again uncreditworthy.

Let no one fool you, the current state of economic affairs in Grenada cannot be blamed entirely on the NDC as Dr. Mitchell would like so many of us to believe.

In 1995, the then NDC government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite and the late George Brizan left a rather healthy economy for Dr. Mitchell and the NNP – an economy which was stable and in which the country’s international creditworthiness was restored following the successful implementation of a structural adjustment programme.

The need for that programme was to correct the mismanagement of the economy by the previous NNP administration of the late Herbert Blaize and in which Dr. Mitchell served as Minister of Communication & Works.

On assuming office in June 1995, Dr. Mitchell and his newlook NNP went on a “borrowing and spending” spree. The net result after thirteen years in office was an economy left in shambles with high and unsustainable fiscal deficits, public debt, inflation, and unemployment.

In addition, the country was struggling with low economic growth rates, low productivity, low consumer and investor confidence and low morale among public officers.




Those were the massive, thick trees in the economic forest of Grenada that the NDC encountered and struggled immensely to overcome throughout its four and a half years in office until it was booted out in February.

If the truth be told, the NDC only managed to scratch the surface when it came to finding meaningful solutions to the economic woes it inherited from Dr. Mitchell and the NNP.

Clearly, therefore, Dr. Mitchell and his party’s victory at the last poll did one and only one thing: Return the same Dr. Mitchell to the “economic and financial crime scene” so that he could attempt to clean up the economic mess he created for this country over a thirteen year period due to his reckless borrowing and spending attitude.

In the prevailing economic climate in the country, one cannot fail to observe that despite the changes in governments, Timothy Antoine, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance remains intact. Someone in authority needs to explain to the Grenadian people what precisely is the role of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance?

If the holder of that most critical post in the public service is doing his job effectively, then, how did the country and economy end up bankrupt under his watch? Is it the case that his advice and guidance to the Ministers of Finance are being constantly ignored?

Or is it that he does not have the technical skills and knowledge to impart to the Minister of Finance to provide some basis for helping to resolve the most pressing economic problems plaguing the country?

To what extent does PS Antoine seek and incorporate the views and opinions of other senior technical members of staff within the Ministry of Finance? Is it the case that for more than a decade, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance was more interested in preserving his job than solving the country’s economic problems and therefore channeled his talents and creativity toward pandering to his respective Ministers of Finance?

It is abundantly clear to THE NEW TODAY that something is not quite right when it comes to the manner in which the Ministry of Finance is being managed and led. There is clear failure in that Ministry from both the senior administrative level and at the political level.

Given the fact that Dr. Mitchell has publicly declared his immense confidence in Mr. Antoine and even now places a tremendous amount of responsibility in that gentleman’s hands as far as managing the economy is concerned (at the expense of even his Chief Policy Adviser, Dr. Patrick Antoine), then, it is only fair to conclude that PS Antoine has a lot to clarify to the Grenadian people for the fact that the economy is now being declared bankrupt by the IMF.

After all, Mr. Antoine has sat in the chair of Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance during the previous Mitchell administration, for the entire duration of the NDC government, and he is still ever so present in that prestigious office!

When you consider the number of persons in the public service who have been given marching orders by this same Dr. Mitchell and his NNP administration for all sorts of trivial reasons, one cannot fail to ask: Why is Timothy Antoine untouchable? When does performance or lack thereof in office matter?

It takes more than trust in an individual to take Grenada out of its present economic quagmire and to realise the birth of the so-called new economy that was promised the people back in February and which they fell for in massive numbers thus the 15-0 clean sweep at the polls.

Grenada should not be treated like the private real estate property of anyone. What is needed right now are the best sons and daughters with the skills and competence to come to its rescue.

Oh Grenada – land of our birth – why are you going back into 1989 and this state of bankruptcy and uncreditworthiness?

 

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