November 26 – Budget Day – is less than two weeks away.
It is the day set aside for the presentation of the 2015 Budget by the Minister of Finance who at this point in time is Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The Ministry of Finance has announced that the theme for the 2015 Budget is: “Maintaining Fiscal Discipline, Creating Jobs and Protecting the Vulnerable”.
The release issued by the ministry indicated that the selected theme reflects the priorities identified by Government for economic growth and stabilisation and the creation of jobs in keeping with the Homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme.
THE NEW TODAY is very much interested in the aspect of the budget that refers specifically to “Creating Jobs” as the ruling New National Party (NNP) has not been able to deliver on its 2013 campaign promise of providing thousands of jobs within the first three months to ease the unemployment situation in the country.
The electorate fell for the glib, as well as the pretty talk and campaign promises and gave the party another clean sweep of all 15 seats at the polls – the second such feat in a 15-year period of electoral politics.
The so-called promise of the new leaders in the Botanical Gardens of
creating “a new economy” cannot be seen right now on the horizon as the architect Dr. Patrick Antoine, the man whom many thought would have been running things after the election, has all but disappeared from the Grenadian landscape.
The NNP leadership might be making a huge mistake in not fully utilising the talents of Dr. Antoine in trying to help the country fix the grave economic situation.
The Prime Minister seems to rely on his trusted lieutenant Timothy Antoine, the current Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance who many consider to be the defacto Minister of Finance of the country.
Within the NNP set-up, the sentiment is that the two Antoine’s cannot work together in harmony as a team and Dr. Patrick will not subject himself to the supremacy of PS Antoine as given to him by PM Mitchell.
This newspaper sees a fundamental difference between the two Antoine’s. The PS Finance is considered to be a one-man band and holds onto everything and that nothing gets moving unless he is physically involved.
However, Dr. Patrick Antoine is more of a team player and will come to the work place with others who might be able to get the job done and make him look good.
Speculation is rife that the term “Franchise professionals” that surfaced in the 2013 election manifesto was the brainchild of Dr. Antoine who played a significant role in the creation of the document for the NNP.
The manifesto said the following words: “Technical leadership is built around the concept of “franchise professionals” selected on the basis of merit, with the ability to lead other professionals and to work in harmony with colleague civil servants in advancing the recovery and transformation agenda”.
Today, no one can identify any of the so-called “franchise professionals” that the NNP was talking about in the many campaign promises of 2013 to build this “New Economy”.
The 2015 budget must also be seen in the context of another major promise made by Dr. Mitchell and company in Campaign 2015 to bring to the fore “Six major development projects commencing in the first year” of getting back into office.
Where are these development projects? THE NEW TODAY is not aware of these projects taking place in any part of the country.
In addition, foreign investors would have taken careful note of two recent developments – the further lowering of the island’s credit rating status by Standard & Poor’s and the major slide on the “Doing Business Index” of the World Bank.
Grenada has not been servicing its major debts on the international market since NNP came into office in February 2013 so the grade from Standard was not unexpected.
Running a country is serious business and not as simple as Economic Development as Minister Joseph sought to make it out in the 2013 campaign with the ole talk that it was very simple to fix the fiscal problem by just growing the economy.
As Economic Development Minister, the 2015 budget will provide the perfect platform for the St. David’s MP to roll out his plans on the critical issue of “growing the economy” which he has not seriously addressed in the past 20 months.
Budget 2015 should also give some kind of a signal of the intention
of the Mitchell administration to address the vexing problem of the massive national debt which is a millstone around the necks of Grenadians and the stumbling block in moving the country to another level.
The debt has to be seriously addressed in order to give the country the badly needed breathing space from those international creditors who have been waiting for the past 20 months on some positive statement from the administration on the way forward with the millions owed to them.
This country is already over-taxed and Dr. Mitchell should be aware that additional taxes in Budget 2015 will impact negatively on the spending power of the populace and economic activities in the upcoming fiscal year.
So it begs the question – where will the government get the money
from to start paying the massive debt of EC$2.4 billion, most of it created by the unfortunate borrowing and spending spree mentality of the NNP in the 1995-2008 period?
Can the sale of 10, 000 passports in 12 months under the Citizenship by Investment Programme solve the debt quagmire that Grenada has now found itself in?
Some Grenadians have already eaten “the food” at the restaurant but the bill has now been submitted by the owner and they simple cannot pay for the good times but still looking to “papa” for more free food.