The buzz in Grenada these days is about last week’s reshuffle of the Cabinet by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in which the high profile – Nikolas Steele (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Alexandra Otway-Noel (Minister of Tourism & Civil Aviation) were in effect demoted from their prestigious positions.
As Foreign Minister, Steele was almost on par with the Prime Minister as the face of the nation in the international arena while Otway-Noel was in charge of the portfolio that in recent years had become the engine of economic growth and major earner of foreign exchange for an already cash-strapped government.
The two were seen as the great “hopes” of the “well-to-do” class in the country who over the years shunned away from direct involvement in the politics as frontline candidates although they often pumped money mainly into the coffers of the ruling New National Party (NNP) and not the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The Prime Minister is astute enough to understand the need to keep throwing out some of the carrots in the faces of this class of people in order to keep them on board for the next election.
As far as THE NEW TODAY is concerned, Dr. Mitchell has sent some strong political signals with the reshuffle in terms of his thinking for the next elections.
Our prediction is that the inclusion of the controversial Peter David in the Senate is aimed primarily at putting him up at the next poll as the NNP candidate to contest the St. George North-east seat against NDC Leader, Nazim Burke.
Both Dr. Mitchell and David have one thing in common – a great hatred and dislike of Burke and a commitment to try and bring an end to his political career.
However, the point man in the charge against the Congress leader would be the new person who is tipped to become President of the Senate, Comrade Chester Humphrey – the main promoter of “Project Grenada – who is still spitting fire from his expulsion as a member of NDC in 2012.
A decision seems to have already been taken by PM Mitchell on the future in frontline politics of MP for North-east St. George, Tobias Clement and Clifton Paul (St. Patrick East) as constituents especially in the influential River Sallee area continue to express negative remarks about his lack of representation.
The Cabinet reshuffle is seen by THE NEW TODAY as a distraction from the real reality in the country – the failure of the NNP regime to bring about a paradigm shift in Grenada’s economic and financial fortunes given the austerity measures that came out from regime change in the February 2013 general elections.
If Minister Otway-Noel was such a shining light in the Ministry of Tourism, why not put her into the Ministry of Communication & Works where Minister Gregory Bowen seems to be struggling to stay on top of the road network in the country?
The moves that were made by PM Mitchell do not change in any significant way the dire economic and financial problems confronting the country.
If anyone is still in doubt about Grenada’s precarious position then this newspaper invites them to read two articles which appear in this week’s edition – one by Ron Harford, the Chairman of Republic Bank and a statement issued by the newly formed Taxpayers Association of Grenada.
Both of them expose the political gimmickry that has been taking place in this country in recent years with the abuse of the nation’s financial purse by those politicians who are mainly pre-occupied with winning elections at all cost due to a lust for political power.
In the words of Mr. Harford: “Fiscal management in the Caribbean is severely deficient. Many governments run perennial deficits and create debt, the proceeds of which go to unproductive uses. These unproductive uses have neither consistent nor self sustaining sources of revenue to repay debt. Governments therefore tend to fill revenue shortfalls with deficit financing and lengthy delays in paying for goods and services. This is basically servicing debt with more debt, a perfect recipe to allow debt to accumulate to unsustainable levels”.
He went on to say the following: “…The state used the funds from deficit financing to employ an ever increasing proportion of the labour force and direct scandalous amounts of public resources to unproductive means in the form of transfers and subsidies. For political reasons, governments establish these expenditure patterns and they become entrenched”.
Information coming out of government circles is that over 10, 000 persons are currently on the Treasury payroll in Grenada. How long can this continue?
Could it be that 6000 of these are established civil servants, 3, 000 Imanis and 1000 are political operatives of the NNP?
Despite claims by the new leader of cutting expenditure in the past 21 months in office, the number one contributor is the wage bill and this will have to be seriously addressed in order to arrest the fiscal deficit.
It has to be massive retrenchment in the civil service similar to what was recently announced in Barbados as the private sector here is not showing signs of engaging in the kinds of economic activities that can create the badly needed jobs.
Therefore, our people should not expect the fiscal deficit of Grenada to be solved in the 3-years of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) as Mr. Harford rightly summarized that the model for development that is currently being used has failed us badly and something needs to be done urgently to address the problem.
A worthwhile suggestion has been put forward by the Taxpayers Association of Grenada for a Think Tank group to be assembled to help us look at a new approach to managing our economy.
Our political leaders must rise to the challenge and tap into the talents of those capable of making a contribution whether they live at home, other islands in the region, or in those metropolitan cities in North America and Europe.
As the Taxpayers body has said: “We have created a country where the youth see no job opportunity and future, and dream to emigrate overseas at the first chance. In fact the children of many of our leaders and business people are already in the US or the UK for their education and will never come back. Cutting bush for $35 a day is their likely job opportunity in Grenada. Our labour is continuing to degrade to this level. Those who are qualified for better jobs flee the country”.
THE NEW TODAY is hopeful that both NNP and NDC will give serious thought to the suggestion as neither side of the political spectrum has the capacity to grapple with the dire economic and financial problems that can result in our Spice Isle becoming a failed state and in the next three months will mark its 41st anniversary as a so-called independent nation.