The Grenlec saga with Mitchell/Bowen and WRB Enterprises

A showdown is definitely in the making between the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government and WRB Enterprises, the U.S-owned company that is the majority shareholder in the island’s sole provider of electricity, GRENLEC.

The regime has fired off a shot straight at the heart of GRENLEC with the introduction of legislation in Parliament to break the company’s monopoly status in the industry.

As expected, GRENLEC has hit back with a statement that described the move as “politically motivated, ideologically conceived and totally discretionary” on the part of the current rulers in St. George’s.

The utility company is clearly directing its response at the two main players in the NNP regime – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and Public Utilities Minister, Gregory Bowen.

These are the two persons in the country who were most vocal in their opposition to the sale of the majority shares in GRENLEC to WRB Enterprises by a former National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite.

The younger generation in this country will not be aware of the 22 years of confrontation between the WRB-led GRENLEC and the Mitchell/Bowen combination over the once state-owned company.

GRENLEC became the property of the Government and People of Grenada under the 1979-83 People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late Marxist leader, Maurice Bishop that pursued a policy of the state being in the driver’s seat within the context of a mixed economy model of development.

After the demise of the PRG, the New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Herbert Blaize inherited GRENLEC and current Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, as Minister of Works became the line minister for the company.

Blaize’s NNP embarked upon a programme of rural electrification and Dr. Mitchell as the person charged with overseeing the state body got most of the praise for bringing electricity to those remote parts of the country for the very first time.

It helped to propel Dr. Mitchell’s political career and put him in good stead with ordinary folks when the time came for him  to successfully challenge Blaize for control of NNP in 1989.

As Minister of Works, Dr. Mitchell was able to bring in Gregory Bowen as Manager of GRENLEC. The two had established a special relationship when the current Prime Minister was teaching at Presentation Brother’s College (PBC) and young Bowen was a student.

Bowen’s tenure at the helm of the company is very questionable based on evidence that came out of a Public Inquiry into the operations of several statutory bodies as ordered by Blaize before his death in 1989.

Unfortunately, very few copies of the report are around for the population to read on the outcome of the inquiry as conducted by former Barbadian high court judge, Justice Lindsay Worrell.

If there is one person who had lost his vested interest in GRENLEC is Bowen as Manager since evidence provided at the inquiry identified him as one who took home thousands of dollars in a profit-sharing scheme for management.

The inquiry pointed at the waste of millions of dollars by the GRENLEC management on the purchase of questionable equipment and the constant blackouts and frequent load shedding in the country.

This was the state of affairs of GRENLEC when Sir Nicholas and NDC came into power in 1990.

A depleted Treasury compounded the situation as Congress soon found that it had to impose a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) as the economy inherited from the NNP placed Grenada in the status of being uncreditworthy.

The country was literary bankrupt and did not have the financial means to pump money into a company that was virtually a derelict.

THE NEW TODAY is not in a position to state categorically that Congress failed to negotiate the best deal for the country in the arrangement that was worked out with WRB Enterprises.

However, the fact of the matter is that the newlook GRENLEC under WRB control was able to provide much stable electricity for the country than under the days of the Blaize, Mitchell and Bowen tenure back in the 1984-90 period.

This newspaper is anticipating a long and protracted legal battle between the controllers of GRENLEC and Government in the coming weeks, months and years over the move that was made in Parliament within recent days.

There are reports that GRENLEC and its lawyers are already putting together a lawsuit for breach of contract.

Where is our cash-strapped government finding the possible millions in legal fees to be paid to a battery of high-priced lawyers that would most likely be retained for the case?

Is there someone lurking in the shadows who is prepared to provide the financial package to PM Mitchell, Gregory Bowen and the others in NNP to carry through on the battle that has been started with WRB and GRENLEC?

THE NEW TODAY believes that there is another agenda being set by NNP in taking on GRENLEC at this point in time – to rally its support base for the next general elections on a platform of cheaper electricity to fuel “the new economy” that was promised for 2013 but has not materialized as yet.

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