For Grenadians so desperately in need of some comforting words of assurances from the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell about the intended plans by his Administration to implement an International Monetary Fund (IMF) aided “home-grown” Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), his national address last week Wednesday night was a major disappointment.
The speech delivered in prime time on local television and radio and carried globally via the Worldwide Web, lacked substance and internal coherence; and was without any meaningful financial and economic content.
THE NEW TODAY believes strongly that in most part that National Address came across as being too disjoined – an increasing tendency on the part of Dr. Mitchell with his many public utterings since the February general elections that brought him back to power.
Many persons can argue that the NNP’s last coherent statement of economic policy was its election manifesto – arguably a sound document – except that nothing of substance from it has been implemented so far in the past eight months.
The most disappointing aspect of the National Address is that most Grenadians would have waited patiently for weeks and months to get their first real insights into some of the measures to be implemented as part of what is being called a “home-grown” structural adjustment programme – but instead, they were treated to a dose of what can only be described as typical “smoke and mirrors” propaganda in its purest form.
Our Prime Minister must know by now that 2013 is a far cry from back in 1995 when he first took control of the Government in this country and money was around because the previous Congress government had restored our creditworthiness.
And with the evolution of social media (Twitter, Face book, What’s App, etc.), information (good and bad) gets around rather quickly and it is nearing impossible for Dr. Mitchell and his NNP to fool the Grenadian people, since somewhere, someone will do the research and “call them out.”
For example, in his National Address, the Prime Minister told the nation that: “Currently, 70 cents of every dollar collected is spent on salaries and pensions with the remaining 30 cents spent on debt repayment.
As anyone can see from what the PM told the nation, there is just no money left for projects in health, education, roads and youth development or investments in the productive sectors – which are all so vital for the growth of our economy.”
In one of the other many contradictions contained in the Address, the Prime Minister then goes on to state that: “Eight months ago, you voted for hope, jobs and opportunity. Since the appointment of our Government, we have worked hard, each and every day, to deliver on our commitments to you, our people.
He went on to say: Eight months later, we have generated short term employment opportunities; improved basic health care; begun to repair our neglected roads; expanded safety nets; increased support to our farmers; delivered salary increases to our public servants for the first time in 5 years; created opportunities for small businesses and provided opportunities for our youth to acquire skills and jobs.”
Given the well-publicised fact that Grenada has and continues to be held hostage by a real fiscal and debt nightmare, where did the money come from for the Government to have done all the things the Prime Minister is now claiming?
Do we need to remind the Prime Minister that in his own speech, he told the nation that every dollar collected by government in revenue goes towards salaries, pensions, and debt repayment! Where did the money come from for the 6% increase in Ministers’ salaries?
This deception/miscalculation aside, The New Today is clear that the Prime Minister has again wasted a golden opportunity to come clean with the Grenadian public on the major policy issues in relation to his impending home-grown structural adjustment programme.
Indeed, besides a few hints of some of the actions to be taken on revenue and expenditure to try to correct the fiscal stranglehold facing the country, Grenadians are no wiser vis-à-vis the true nature of the medicine we are about to be asked to accept as part of our collective “sacrifice” to protect and save the country’s economy.
This newspaper makes this observation because in pursuing the “Letter of Intent” sent to the IMF by the Jamaican Government on April 17, 2013, it is quite obvious that the now inevitable home-grown programme in Grenada will have to involve much more than the simple tax policies and expenditure-reduction plans the Prime Minister has revealed in his National Address.
For example, on the fiscal side alone, in Jamaica’s case, the Portia Simpson-Miller government made clear to the IMF its intention to: “Apply a Customs Administration Fee (CAF) on all imports except for charitable organisations and the bauxite sector. Amendment to the fee structure and gross profit tax of betting, gaming, and lottery sector. Increase property tax rates to take effect for fiscal year 2013/14 and initiate measures to improve the relatively low property tax compliance rate”.
The Jamaica government also committed to the following with the IMF: “Include the special telephone call tax (TCT) as part of the GCT base. Include all fees and taxes paid at the port (Environmental levy and Customs administration fee) as part of the GCT base. Increase the tax on dividend to 15 percent. Impose a surtax of 5 percent on large unregulated companies. Increase the Education tax rate by 0.5 percentage points for employers and 0.25 percentage points for employees. Increase the Stamp duty and transfer tax rates (for properties) up from the current 3 and 4 percent rates to 4 and 5 percent, respectively.”
Do we need to remind Prime Minister Mitchell, that the above fiscal policies which Jamaica had to commit itself with to get the blessings of the IMF for its programme are authentic and unambiguous measures?
The PM’s national address did not provide Grenadians with such specifics and this should have been done if only for clarification purposes? Is the Prime Minister hoping to do this on December 6 in the 2014 budget?
Finally, Mr. Prime Minister, if indeed someone said to you as you indicated in the address: “Mr. Prime Minister, elections are over. My party lost but my government won,” then for the sake of Grenada and Grenadians, please come clean and let the Nation know what precisely are your plans by way of major macro-economic policies to reconfigure the socio-economic landscape of our beautiful country through your imminent home-grown structural adjustment programme.
In the NNP Manifesto, Dr. Mitchell promised that he and the NNP will deliver and it is high time that they come clean and tell the Grenadian Public if this is no longer possible under his leadership. But, then again, Dr. Mitchell and NNP did promise many things during the campaign including a highly competent technical team of Grenadians to handle the economy.
Dr. Mitchell, where is your Chief Policy Advisor Dr. Patrick “Jagan” Antoine, the Architect of the New Economy? It is time to find him and the rest of the competent team that was promised to us during the campaign for the February polls.
This missing team is badly needed if Dr. Mitchell and NNP are hoping to have any real and serious chance of delivering on the many promises made to get back into office.
The team is needed more than taking a 6% hike in the salaries of Ministers.