Government vs foreign investors

Is a bird in the hand still worth two in the bush? It depends on the weather forecast for the day.

Several governments in Grenada have declared the private sector to be “the engine of growth”. The statement can be found in many budget speeches over the past 20 years in Grenada, but now it’s coming into question as government itself runs afoul of the very sector that it says can take the country’s economy out of its current state.

It now seems that a reinterpretation of the statement that reads “The private sector which supports us, is the engine of growth,” seems to be a more appropriate interpretation of the statement where the current administration in St. George’s is concerned.

Whether it’s GRENLEC, the United States investor WRB, the Grenadian by Rex Resort or other companies that are experiencing the ire of the government, it clearly is a shot across the bow for all investors and potential investors.

What is even more concerning is that these very public conflicts with current investors like the Rex, are happening at a time when the very government is hosting a meeting at the Radisson and is seeking to woo more investors in the hotel sector to Grenada as part of a focus on the blue economy.

It appears based on what ministers have been saying recently that your contribution to the development of the country is only counted when you allow the powers-that-be to control your operations. When you appear to want to stick to good business practices that benefit the country, you quickly fall from grace, no matter how much money you spend on national development.

Another such investor who has spent more than EC $200M in the development of a high profile venture that employs many Grenadians, now appears to be having the same experience. That message then must be a concern for all the potential investors as word spreads that extra care must be taken when Grenada appears on the radar.

The current spat between the government and GRENLEC, driven by someone who has had a previous relationship with the company, appears to be the result of an ill-advised, high-handed and I’ll get you back approach that does not smell well. The same can be said about the Grenadian by Rex.

It is obvious that the days of dialogue, discussion and diplomacy between the state and the “engine of growth” are long gone, giving way to ultimatums and cut throat interactions that cannot be good for any country or investor.

It is clear that a pattern is emerging in the relationship between the Grenada government and the foreign investor community that is so needed to help move the country forward.

At the local level, there is also the Rivera hotel and Camerhogne Park issue, that, when placed into the mix, provides a dangerous throwback to an earlier era in Grenada’s history. ‘You are my friend until I meet someone with deeper pockets,’ seem to be the new policy.

The cart is driving the horse and every attempt, every effort, must be made to reverse the order or the cart will bound away.

Grenada’s political stability since the collapse of the revolution can give way to a period of economic instability, in which the engine will stall or slow down, resulting  in greater hardships for every Grenadian who are unable to hop the airlines at Maurice Bishop International.

In 2014 the former Chairman of the Republic Bank Group, Ronald Harford told the Caribbean Association of Bankers at their meeting in Grenada, “Equally damaging, is the low level of accountability of our leaders, who are permitted to avoid hard questions such as those related to corruption, expenditure and unrealised budget plans. The sad reality is that our political structure in some ways impedes the region’s long-term development…….. The model is indeed broken. I hope for the region’s sake that our will to take corrective action is not as well.”

It appears that message may have fallen on deaf ears.

Trevor Sergeant

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