In one of his appearance on the weekly current affairs program Beyond the Headlines, former minister of finance and political leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Nazim Burke was strongly condemning the Keith Mitchell-led government for its management of the economy.
While Burke has his rights to criticize the economic policies of the government, political observers are calling his performance disingenuous and a betrayal of the people’s confidence.
When the New National Party swept the polls on February 19, 2013, winning all 15 available seats leaving the incumbent NDC in disarray, the electorate perfectly understood the message of the NNP. One such message is found in the party’s manifesto on page ten, which carried excerpts of the IMF article four consultations report (June 2012). It painted a dire picture of Grenada’s economy of a low to negative growth rate and very high unemployment.
Under the caption (manifesto) “An urgent call to action: The NNP appreciates the reality of the situation now facing Grenada. There can be no denying that our economy was on the edge of a dangerous fiscal precipice. Now, only decisive, prudent and expert management can avert a looming disaster arising from almost five dismal years of an economically inept NDC administration.”
Guided by these promises, Prime Minister Mitchell in March 2013 informed Grenada’s international creditors of his government’s intention to restructure the country’s debts. This decision got the approval of the IMF, the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.
In a nationally-televised address, the prime minister, who is also the minister of finance, told the nation that Grenada’s fiscal situation is untenable. With a fiscal gap of EC$18 million monthly there is little or no room to develop the productive sector. This means, government collects monthly revenue of EC$35 million and spends EC$53 million.
He also disclosed that 70 cents of every dollar collected in revenue goes to pay salaries, wages and pensions and 30 cents goes to pay debts. Therefore, contrary to what was presented to the nation by Nazim Burke, the former minister of finance under the NDC, that the debt is government’s biggest headache is grossly false. In actual fact the wage bill is two and a half times bigger than the government’s debt repayments.
To date, the economic policies of the Keith Mitchell-led government start to bear fruits. Already, its Home Grown Structural Adjustment Program has gained the approval of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which opened the door to the country receiving concessionary loans and grant funding from the IMF, the World Bank, the Caribbean Development Bank and the European Union.
The government has met its commitment of a 6 percent wage increase and back pay to all current and former public sector employees, which was agreed to by the previous administration; in fact this agreement was finalized a few months prior to the last general elections to the tune of EC$52 million.
That was accomplished by the Keith Mitchell-led administration to the dismay of Nazim Burke, who predicted that the government was stillborn and would not be able to meet all the financial commitments he had saddled the new government with. In addition to paying monthly salaries on time and without having to sell government assets as was the case with the NDC.
The Fiscal Gap has been reduced by half, moving from EC$18 million monthly to around EC$9 million. The unpaid claims in the Treasury which stood at EC$110 million when the NNP came into office February 19, 2013, has been decreased to EC$77 million in October 2014… a reduction of EC$33 million.
A monitoring committee for the Home Grown Structural Adjustment Program made up of members of the Committee of Social Partners has been meeting monthly to review the performance of the program and to advise government. Also in this period, the IMF held its first review of the program and has reported that the government has surpassed all its targets.
The IMF and the other developmental partners have commended the government highly for its prudent management of the economy for the 20 months since taking office. Only Nazim Burke alone is singing a negative tune. Is this a question that he is yet to come to terms with the massive election defeat by Hon. Tobias Clement?
It is very revealing that Mr Burke’s disapproval of the government’s performance is disingenuous and an attempt to mislead the nation which political pundits are saying will not work for the evidence of the Keith Mitchell-led government’s success is there for all to see.