It’s another Christmas season in our tri-island State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
We take this opportunity to wish the entire nation the very best Christmas holiday period that is possible in the circumstances and in particular our many advertisers both at home and overseas, as well as the thousands of readers who give support our contributors both past and present and the paper vendors who play a critical role in making sure that the end product gets to the public.
This will be our last issue before the holiday period as the next edition of THE NEW TODAY will be out on December 29.
As we reflect on the past twelve months, it was another tough period for the citizens as the austerity measures forced them to dig deeper into their pockets to cope with the increasing taxes that came from the Structural Adjustment Programme.
The recently-presented 2016 budget did not contain anything to suggest that some relief are in sign in the immediate future for the population.
The government boasted that it was a tax free budget but this has been a trademark of the ruling New National Party (NNP) governments of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell over the past 20 years.
Any new tax measures or increases in existing taxes and revenue measures by the NNP rulers usually come in the form of SR&O’s in the fiscal year and not directly in the Budget Presentation.
The government is seemingly taking comfort from the fact that it has concluded the long-outstanding rescheduling of debts with the bondholders of our commercial debts.
The issue first surfaced in April 2013 – one month after Dr. Mitchell returned for his fourth term in office – when he announced that Grenada was forced to default on those debt payments of millions because there was no way that the Treasury could fulfill those obligations.
The real test for the island with respect to payment under the new arrangements will come in 2016 as the first installment is due by the middle of next year and the second some six months later.
Payment of these high interest bonds was one of the major contributing factors to the failure by the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Tillman Thomas to pay civil servants on time on at least two occasions.
The NDC did a very poor Public Relations job in explaining to the Grenadian people the difficult financial situation that it had found itself in due to a problem that it had inherited from the previous NNP regime.
The truth of the matter is that these commercial debts that were contracted at very high interest rates came under a former Mitchell government that wanted millions of dollars in haste as it could not wait on the lengthy periods that took place in negotiating loans from traditional sources like the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
The NNP got a break from paying back on the multi-million bonds due to the precarious situation facing the island’s finances due to the damages done to our economy by Hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004 and 2005.
The change of government in 2008 with NDC assuming State power saw repayments of the bonds and other loans kicking back in and they became a financial millstone around the necks of Grenadians.
The then Finance Minister Nazim Burke and his long-standing Permanent Secretary, Timothy Antoine did not educate the population on that particular financial crisis that was facing the country.
The Mitchell government will have to raise in excess of 50 million dollars in the month in which it has to pay both the salaries of civil servants and honour its financial commitments to the bondholders.
Where is this money coming from to make good on both promises? The persons who have the answers are the PM and Finance Minister Dr. Mitchell and PS Antoine.
THE NEW TODAY is doubtful that the government can raise this large amount of money from the sale of passports under the so-called Citizenship By Investment (CBI) scheme.
The Prime Minister in his recent budget presentation indicated that CBI was not performing as expected and revenue earned from the programme was far below expectations.
There is talk in certain quarters that the government has significantly dropped the going price for the passports in order to get the so-called foreign investors to be attracted to the programme.
The ongoing global war on terrorism in which the most powerful Western nations in the world along with the United States are now involved in, will continue to affect the movement and availability of millions of dollars to purchase passports in Grenada and other Caribbean territories that are pursuing such a policy.
The year 2016 will hold a lot of answers to many questions now occupying the minds of many in the country including whether PM Mitchell will gamble with a possible no-vote campaign against Constitutional Reform with general elections constitutionally due in less than two years.
Why would he want to give Congress a real opportunity to test the ground politically in light of clear signs that the main opposition party would use the Referendum to try and feel out the pulse of the nation?
There is nothing happening on the ground that can truly convince the NNP leaders that the people are totally happy at this moment with what is being dished out to them since 2013 vis-a-vis the promise of a brighter and better day and the bundle of taxes that came their way.