Having read a published letter by Garvey Louison entitled “Joy Riding” for which I found interesting I felt it necessary to add my contribution of support in a small way.
Many a time heads of governments or Ministers travel abroad it is for different reasons and one cannot expect a begging bowl full of goodies on every return trip. The world we live in has changed considerable from that of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s; even then foreign governments were very reluctant to give something for nothing, they always looked to see how they or their nationals can benefit in return.
An example of this is Caribbean governments support for Japan’s whaling stance at the UN also Grenada’s support for China again at the UN and even if we should go back as Mr Louison suggested to the late Maurice Bishop’s visit to Cuba in 1979 and the aftermath; the Americans were absolutely convinced that the agreement to construct the airport was backed by the Soviets to facilitate the then Soviet Union giving them a foothold in the region. So you see they are no free lunches.
In recent years Grenada enjoyed good relationship with Trinidad and Tobago especially under Prime Minister Patrick Manning. Manning had a vision for neighbouring Caribbean countries such as Grenada, St Vincent and St Lucia; he also had a plan to help those countries expand their economies and create real sustainable jobs at local level for their nationals – Trinidad would provide the financial support and technology for some production and hi-tech operations in these Islands.
Manning recognised the countries to the north of Trinidad as a home grown market for the might of T&T production and produce and he quite rightly wanted to capitalise on this by creating demand through economic growth in those countries and at the same time protect his country’s market.
Unfortunately, he called a general election and lost. Not only did the incoming Prime Minister reversed Manning’s policies on the Windward Islands, she tried unsuccessfully to damage his character and reputation by claiming he acted inappropriately by sending two vehicles as gifts to the government of Grenada.
She also insulted the people of Trinidad and Tobago biggest market outside the twin state when she said: “Trinidad is not an ATM machine.” Has this woman ever bothered to look at the balance of trade between Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada? Perhaps I should say imbalance. Patrick Manning did!
For a country as small in size and population as Grenada, officials travelling abroad should at all times try to schedule most of their departmental business or contacts so they fit in with their travel to limit repeats in any one calendar year. An example of this was when the Prime Minister visited Canada, the USA and Great Britain earlier this year. This however; cannot always be possible since other heads of state have got their own plans and schedules they have to meet and in most cases meetings and visits are planned not just months but years in advance.
One could easily ask: what was the reason for the PM’s visit to those countries I mentioned. Personally I have no idea neither do I know who accompanied him on the visits to those countries; what did he accomplish or what he had in his goodies bag on his return to Grenada?
All I can say is his trip was well synchronised and publicised so he can meet as much Grenadians as possible living in, studying or visiting the countries he visited.
For some time now I have raised concerns and have expressed privately those concerns as to what our overseas missions do. What contributions does these costly buildings, the up-keep, staff including Ambassadors, High Commissioners etc make to the economy of our country and can they be more pro-active in terms of being the first line of contact for setting up and co-ordinating the ground work for trade missions by both businessmen as well as Ministers in a similar way as our Tourist Board do abroad?
In the UK we have some very large supermarkets chain such as Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrison’s, Asda, Waitrose to name a few; so I ask the question: Why don’t these massive outlets sell Grenada produce? And what are our officials in our High Commission and our Foreign Office doing about it?
This in my opinion is where the problem lays. Grenada is supposed to be one of the world leaders in spices yet none of these outlets sell our spices. There are a number of brand names famous to Grenada that can and should be on sale in the UK; brands such as Clarke’s Court Rum, Westerhall Rum; De La Grenade and many other brands of spices; essences; seasonings and Nutmeg oil and cream products.
These are products the Brits will love to have available on sale in the UK and yet they are not marketed. We now see some small outlets marketing Grenada Chocolate – thanks to the late inventor of the product and his personal efforts prior to his death to grab a foothold in the UK market.
More effort is needed to support our manufacturing industries and marketers to sell their products to outlets in the UK and other markets throughout the world. We make good quality products that are second to none and are properly packaged for world markets by our producers and manufacturers but they need help in finding overseas countries (big countries) to market to make a difference not to their business but to the economy of our country.
It is time to start thinking big. What we want to hear our PM say to the nation on a return visit from abroad is how much million of dollars of business that has successfully been negotiated leading to the creation of X amount of jobs in this or that particular industry.
We also need Ministers returning to Grenada to be able to talk about new businesses that are likely to open up in different parts of the country.
There are a lot of businesses that can easily be expanded to produce much, much more of quality products they currently manufacture but they need the markets and this is one area where government should concentrate on (overseas markets) to increase production, create additional jobs and stimulate growth.
We are a proud people, we don’t want hand-outs; we want to be able to stand on our own two feet and be proud of what we are producing at home and selling in markets the world over.