Not much after 41 years

Tomorrow is a historic milestone for Grenada – 41 years since the island took control of its political affairs from Great Britain to become an “independent” island nation in the Eastern Caribbean.

A fading British Empire in world politics was more than happy to free itself from those colonies that were no longer prosperous but had become a drain on the purse of the British taxpayers.

It was against this background that many of the islands in the Caribbean were let loose by the British government to chart their own course and to swim in the uncertain high seas.

The Father of our Independence, Sir Eric Matthew Gairy would have mixed feelings about the progress that would have been made by Grenada over the years.
His dream of building a new airport has been fulfilled by the late Maurice Bishop whose People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) received massive help from Cuba to do it at Point Salines.

The airport has opened up many possibilities for this country’s two important sector – agriculture and tourism.

The New National Party (NNP) under both H.A Blaize and Dr. Keith Mitchell has largely been responsible for a massive rural electrification of the country and building on the massive road network that was started under Gairy’s Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) government.

There is hardly a house in Grenada that is not within touching distance of a supply of electricity.

However, where this country has been let down badly by its leaders over the past 41 years is in the area of the financial management of its affairs.

It is quite unfortunate that Grenada has had to steer the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) on three occasions in the past 35 years due to recklessness on the part of some politicians.

Bishop’s PRG, despite massive aid from the communist block of nations, had entered into secret talks with the IMF for a programme that entailed massive lay-off of civil servants among other austerity measures.

The so-called brilliant economist, Bernard Coard, the former Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, was found out badly wanting and had to crawl to the fund to help rescue the Grenadian economy.

The bloody events of October 1983 saved the day financially for Grenada as the United States became the new pay master and was able to pump millions of dollars in direct budgetary aid and assistance to avert the impending IMF programme.

The policies of the Blaize-led NNP along with the reduction of U.S assistance to the island created an untenable financial crisis for the Treasury and the incoming National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Nicholas Brathwaite had little choice but to move towards a homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to address a worsening fiscal situation.

A nation that was declared uncreditworthy about 24 years ago was able to put its house in order and once again in a position to attract millions of dollars from donor countries and aid agencies.

This was the platform inherited by the newlook NNP of Dr. Mitchell when he became Prime Minister in June 1995.

When another chapter in the history of this country is written, the current Prime Minister would become the most successful politician at the polls for his record of four victories at the polls – two by clean sweeps in 1999 and 2013.

The question that historians would have to ponder upon is this: at what price were these electoral victories achieved? Is Grenada a much better and prosperous place after four stints in the chair by Dr. Mitchell?

No one can deny that improvements have been made in some areas but in many others we have simple gone backwards.

The NNP under Dr. Mitchell has taken this country’s national debt from EC$373 million in 1995 to EC$1.8 billion in 2013, and today it stands at EC$2.4 billion.

It is not surprising that Grenada without any meaningful productive sectors to earn the millions needed to operate as a truly independent State in world affairs is back to square one – looking the IMF straight in the face as it embarks upon another Structural Adjustment Programme.

Grenadians need to be prayerful and hope that Dr. Mitchell and his NNP administration succeed and take us as a nation out of the current financial mess that we have once again found ourselves.

The road is not a clear one as nothing of substance has been put on the table to show us what has to be done or is being done to help to grow the economy.

However, THE NEW TODAY would give full support to the legislation that seeks to curb financial spending that can cause pain and hardship on the people.

This kind of legislation is 35 years too late – as politicians and not the people alone who should be made to pay a heavy price including possible jail term for mismanagement as opposed to corruption.

In the current dispensation of economic and financial hard times – the only thing that the country can feel so far is the hand of the taxman as he seeks to put more money into the coffers of the National Treasury.

The NNP promises of two years ago are not in sync with what it has been dishing out to the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique since February 19, 2013.

The 2015 independence speech of the Prime Minister should focus on the realistic programmes that will be rolled out and hopefully implemented to address the economic turnaround for Grenada.

Happy independence to all Grenadians at home and in the diaspora despite of the fact that only a few things like St. George’s University and the airport project that we can truly boast about over the past 41 years.

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