Over the past 30 years, millions of dollars have been spent by successful governments and more-so the New National Party (NNP) which has dominated the political landscape of this country since the return of democratic rule of law following the end of communist/Marxist rule in October 1983.
The individual who can be credited with this massive spending is the current Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for St. George North-west, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
This individual was put in the key Ministry of Communication and Works by the first NNP government of late Prime Minister, H.A Blaize to spearhead the rebuilding efforts after the elections of December 1984 which signaled the return to Constitutional rule of law.
Grenada was able to get massive aid from the United States through its aid agency, USAID and partners like the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
Under Dr. Mitchell’s stewardship in the Ministry of Works, the infrastructure of the country was on the rebound especially the programme of rural electrification in many remote villages around the island.
He became known as the “action man” in the country and the man to go to in the government to get things done on the ground.
In his anxiety to get things done it did not matter to the Works Minister of that era whether he got Cabinet approval to import Stone and other aggregate from St. Vincent to engage in road construction work on the island.
The MP from St. George North-west was soon given the name of “Dr. Stone” when he took the unconventional decision without the knowledge of his other Cabinet colleagues of the day like Dr. Francis Alexis and the late George Brizan to import stone from the neighbouring island in the face of a perceived shortage in Grenada.
Dr. Mitchell was clearly on a mission to “sell himself” to the Grenadian people that he was a no nonsense person and could fill the boots whenever the time came to look for an alternative to the aging and ailing Herbert Blaize.
One of the country’s better calypso writers, “Black Wizard” penned the song “Tell Stone” in which Dr. Mitchell was sold to the public as the man with the answers to all the country’s social, economic and political ills.
Another local newspaper in the early 1990’s came up with a column that promoted Dr. Mitchell on a weekly basis as the man with the “pepper sauce” and the one above all the others who can solve all the ills of Grenada.
It was against this background that the current leader of the government in the Botanical Gardens was able to win his first election in charge of NNP in the 1995 polls and embarked on another fresh rounds of massive infrastructural development in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Over the last 20 years, he borrowed massively and brought in the Kuwaiti construction company known as CCC to build roads including concrete surfaces throughout all parts of the country.
What is the situation today with our roads? Most of them are now in a deplorable state and condition.
There is hardly any good stretch of roads in any part of the island. Some people will say that one has to look for the roads in the many potholes that have taken over our road network.
Dr. Mitchell will once again have to rise to the occasion and fix the problem in order to maintain his reputation as the “action man”.
It is a hard task for him given the fact that the NNP is now in charge of a cash-strapped country that cannot pay its creditors and currently under a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) with a number of austerity measures now in place.
THE NEW TODAY believes that PM Mitchell has to still find a way to tackle the fast deteriorating road situation in the country.
The owners and operators of vehicles in the country are paying huge taxes to the State to use the road, as well as premium prices to Insurance companies.
The current situation with our roads raises concerns about the deliberate policy of the NNP regimes over the years to dismantle the Ministry of Works and turn exclusively to the private sector to engage in road constructions and in some cases repair.
In the face of cash shortages, some private sector persons with heavy-duty equipment are reluctant to work for government because payment for work done is taking too long to come from the Treasury.
The experience of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 exposed the stupidity in the dismantling of the Ministry of Works.
The clean-up drive was slow to get underway as a lot of private firms waited on government leaders to give them the go-ahead to start work.
Any serious government would make sure that it has the tools at its disposal including its own to do many of the things that a government has to do for the people.
If there was a vibrant Ministry of Works with its own fleet of heavy-duty equipment our road network would not have deteriorated to the point that road users are showing increasing signs of becoming frustrated with the situation.
PM Mitchell and his Minister of Works, Gregory Bowen have to both rise to the occasion and tackle the growing problem of a fast deteriorating road network in the country in keeping with their commitment to build a new economy for the country.
Is Dr. Mitchell losing his reputation as the man who will find the money wherever it is to make things happen in our Tri-island state?