The run mouth minister

I am not one who likes to write letters to the newspapers on anything happening in the country.

However, I am now forced to do so after watching a programme on GBN TV on Monday night in which the Minister of Economic Planning and Development, the Hon. Oliver Joseph was one of the guests.

The Minister was less than truthful to the nation when he said that NNP increased the debts when it was forced to borrow money after Ivan to help rebuild the country.

I invite the Minister and Parliamentary Representative for St. David’s to inform the nation where, when and how much money was borrowed to help rebuild the country after Ivan.

It is my understanding that Grenadians used their own funds, most coming from insurance companies to rebuild their battered homes.

Mr. Minister, I know that you were in Grenada at the time of Ivan and must be able to recall that the island got a lot of help from friendly countries and international organisations to help the country recover as speedily as possible from the hurricane.

I also took the time to type out something which I read in a recent editorial of THE NEW TODAY newspaper on this issue of Grenada’s high debts.

Mr. Joseph, if you did not read the editorial, I now invite you to get acquainted with what I have abstracted from that particular editorial.

As I can recall, the editorial made the point that it was quoting from a document which the NNP itself had prepared prior to Ivan and had submitted to the Taiwanese.

The document said among other things: “The country’s debt burden arose from the need to undertake necessary infrastructure development (Roads, Education, Health, etc) in order to kick-start critical growth-oriented activities.

“The scarcity of concessionary financing forced the government to resort to commercial high financing, given the expectation of economic growth. However, the expected economic growth needed to generate the revenues for debt servicing did not materialise because of international shocks, crippling natural disasters, and our lack of technical and professional personnel”.

Mr. Joseph, what this tells me is that NNP was penny wise and pound foolish. Here you have a situation in which NNP had borrowed millions prior to Ivan to bring about economic growth but the NNP itself said that “the expected economic growth needed to generate the revenues for debt servicing did not materialise”.

It was clearly a bad economic and financial decision that was taken by NNP on the borrowing of monies. I suspect that Mr. Joseph knows this but in typical NNP fashion is trying to pull wool over the eyes of the people.

Mr. Joseph, this is what your own NNP government in the pre-Ivan days was telling the Taiwanese: “This debt “overhang” is definitely a constraint to further economic expansion. Urgent steps need to be adapted to reduce the debt burden as a precondition for undertaking critical social programmes. In fact, the ability of the government to undertake the social agenda called for by the Grenadian electorate in the just-held General Elections (2003) will hinge pivotally on the extent to which critical components of the national debt can be reduced”.

I remember listening to Mr. Joseph on GBN radio with Mr. Lew Smith one morning during the election campaign and he was making things look so simple. Words were just flying out from his mouth as if one was gulping down water from a pan cup.

This is the same Oliver Joseph who was telling the nation that it was easy to do, just grow the economy and the more economic activities that took place, the more business in the country and the more money government will collect in taxes.

However, as I listened to him, the one thing that Mr. Joseph did not do was to tell us how he and NNP intended to grow the economy when they got into office.

Mr. Joseph, the next time you appear on radio or television to address the nation’s debt problem that was created largely by unwise borrowing by NNP, please remember these words that came from your own government back in 2003 – and please note long before Hurricane Ivan.

“The (NNP) government has identified a combined strategy of debt renegotiation and rescheduling, financial assistance by friends of Grenada to help with the payment of interests for a period of two to three years, and by limiting Government Capital expenditure. This cautious approach to debt management will over the next several years also impact negatively on the country’s economic growth, which has been strongly dependent on the level of public investment”.

Sir, it is clear to me that NNP was depending on public investment and not private sector investors to drive the economy in the days prior to Ivan. So Mr. Joseph, where will the foreign investors come from that you and NNP promised the electorate for the February 19 elections.

It is one thing for your friend, Jagan (Dr. Patrick Antoine) to open his mouth and say after the elections that Grenada is now open for business and that all business people can just bring their cheque books and come for a little piece of the real estate in Spice country.

By the way, Mr. Joseph, how much of these cheque book businessmen from outside have flow into Grenada on the invitation of your pal, Jagan.

As someone with sense and supposedly a good education Mr. Joseph, will you take your own millions and invest in a depressed market like Grenada? Sir, I hope that the NNP can deliver on its promises to the electorate.


Independent Thinker

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