PM Mitchell has to be bold

According to the latest unemployment statement from the Grenada Government, unemployment fell by 3.6% between October 2013 and 2014.

The statement released is rather sketchy in details because it does not identify the youth unemployment which in my view is most significant in a country that reports an overall unemployment figure of 28.9%.

The statement does not tell us how many people of working age are unemployed neither does it tell us how this 28.9% is arrived at.

Released Government figures should be transparent and give a proper breakdown of the unemployment figures parish by parish so both the Government and public can identify unemployment black spots.

If the Central Statistical Office is going to release figures on unemployment then it should be done properly including the unemployment figures for male and female as well as youth unemployment.

The other thing our people need to know is how much exactly Grenada owes in debts to its creditors overseas as well as nationally and how is the Government going about paying off those debts. As austerity measures continue which in my opinion is necessary to continue receiving the necessary support from the IMF and the World Bank, some Grenadians continue to blame all of the country’s problems on PM Mitchell quoting figures of $340m debt when he first took office in the 80’s as against $2b presently according to their figures.

The doom and gloom mongers conveniently forget that the country suffered two of the most devastating hurricanes in its history in successive years and recovery was swift including major infrastructure.

So perhaps, we should be looking at where did the money came from for such a remarkable recovery and was it spent wisely? Also was the negotiated terms at the time favourable enough to the country?

Unlike Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal, Grenada doesn’t have the European Union to bail it out financially (no one to run to with a begging bowl), so like the UK and many other major economies of the world, Grenada had to approach the World Bank and the IMF to renegotiate the terms on loans.

Such renegotiations include a package of debt reduction measures for countries in default to bring their debts to an acceptable level in relation to GDP (fiscal acceptability over a period). In terms of debts reduction in my view the PM has bitten the bullet and did the right thing.

Whether or not he got the best terms during his renegotiation is another matter; but his approach to the country’s financial crisis was
the right one – we can all do without the Greece style financial fiasco in Grenada.

In the UK with the introduction of austerity measures we have had to endure 40% cuts in public services and the Government is not finished yet. We expect another big round of cuts to be announced by the Chancellor in his autumn statement. Local Government for which I am a member is facing a funding gap at the time of writing of £9.5bn by 2020.

I mention this because the Government of Grenada has to take similar measures (cuts to services) to help clear the debts owed to the World Bank, IMF and local creditors if we as a country are really serious about being a country for which foreign investors can do business with.

On the other hand PM Mitchell has to be bold and provide as promised when in opposition local fiscal autonomy to communities. Devolution of Parishes or devolution in large towns would give local people the freedom and funding certainty to be able to plan long term to deliver transport and other infrastructure to support growth.

Peter David is wasted in his current role. Peter is a man of action; he needs to be extended not vegetate. Peter should be given the role of Minister for Enterprise and Redevelopment (Business Chief) with the Government declaring strategic areas of St George’s Town, Grenville and Sauteurs Enterprise Zones for starters with Peter David responsible for leading a team including a certain guy called Gilbert to plan for future redevelopment, seek out investors for private as well as public/private partnership projects also help in raising funds for redevelopments including necessary infrastructure projects within the declared Enterprise Zones.

If we are going to cut jobs in the public sector we need to create jobs in the private sector not only to compensate for the public sector losses but to help growth and create a healthy long term and sustained economy.

The Government of the day’s aspiration should be to cut unemployment to single figures by a certain date. To achieve this we need public/private partnerships investment. We should also prepare the path for overseas investors to want to come to Grenada to set up their businesses and at the same time provide the incentive for businesses already established in the country to expand.

One of the thing I don’t hear anyone talking about in Grenada is Apprenticeships and Apprenticeship Schemes. Perhaps this is where we have been failing some of our youths (male and female). The Government needs to provide the incentives and encouragement to businesses for employers to put on offer Apprenticeship Schemes to young people not only for them to be skilled in a trade but to provide them with a secured job at the end of their training. Come on Doc roll this out!

The time is right for the Government to seek a negotiated settlement of our country’s marine boundary with Venezuela. Grenada needs to do what Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago have been doing – exercise our rights in terms of negotiating offshore drilling rights in Grenada’s territorial waters.

We have heard a lot about collaboration with Trinidad and Tobago to drill for oil and gas at the agreed international marine boundary between the two countries by the last NDC Government. However; since the Mitchell Government took office over 3 years ago they seem to be a total silence on this issue.

The people of Grenada need to know what the Government of the day is doing about our country’s natural resources. We need to know exactly what has happened to the agreement with Trinidad and Tobago also; if any drilling has taken place and if not, when is it expected to commence?

Also, why is the Government not negotiating drilling rights with international drilling companies to explore for oil and gas within Grenada’s marine boundary with Trinidad and Tobago?

Winston Strachan

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