This is not your traditional article for the important reason that Grenada has ‘powered-up’ in an unprecedented manner over public policy and legislation which hit home to every citizen of every class in the society.
Like the very nature of electricity itself, the issue harbours both harm and good, over a wide range of circumstances. The caution of wisdom and the power of understanding must therefore be found and made to take precedence.
It is relieving to see Grenada engaged and energised over the Government/GRENLEC issue whereby ‘John and Joan Citizen’ are free to express themselves on the merits and de-merits of the case. While there has been a tremendous volume of opinion establishing goodwill towards GRENLEC for consistently high quality services and its superior sense of social responsibility as a corporate citizen, there have also been audible voices in favour of change that would benefit Grenadians without unnecessary or ill-advised risk-taking.
People are concerned about managing the contractual relationship between Government and GRENLEC, and perceptions that the stability of existing services could be compromised. In addition, the jury is out as to whether the average consumer will be better off and whether new anger-posts of inequity in the society will emerge.
On the other hand, there are opinions which hold that certain businesses could become more competitive using renewables. Therefore, there are supportable arguments on both sides of the debate. Readers will know that a society never needs to reconcile over positive things. On the contrary, reconciliation is needed where bad things have affected the society. The same is true regarding foreseeable negative consequences where the transition process is badly managed.
For the first time since the Revolution, the State is being heard to be taking objection to high profits! This is an interesting development as it will be listened to by all existing businesses and potential investors in Grenada, and is likely to affect their thinking and decision-making. But, is this departure one of convenience (limited to GRENLEC) or is it a new philosophical position of the Government?
The facts may well show that there are other companies in Grenada that make higher profits “on the backs of the ordinary people” than does GRENLEC! In other words, is the Government lifting a new policy standard regarding the making of profits by the private sector? If so, then any such standard must be non-discriminatory.
At a different level, the issue brings to the fore the need for Grenadians to settle themselves and begin to address how the country is going to be developed. Up to this point, we have not situated the discussion within an identifiable development framework. The situation was much clearer during the Revolution until ‘foolish’ leftist hardliners gunned it down!
One of the fundamentals here is our failure to understand what development is and to agree on how to make it happen. In this respect, a new conversation is needed as well as new politics to provide the appropriate leadership required. There must be explanations regarding lost opportunities and persistent lagging surrounding our transition from agriculture to services; first tourism, and then ICT.
Now, as before, we are approaching renewable energy sources with a set of borrowed learning, but without a development philosophy of our own to guide its valid application. So we rolling like ‘divas’, we hot and ready, but we can’t make the outfit or the music! We can make fun, but cannot produce the wine! We may be happy to be taught how to fish, but do not understand that it is better to own the fishing grounds!
In these circumstances, it is high time that the sovereign people speak up, as follows:
Sovereign Resolution on Government’s Legislative Action re. GRENLEC
Sponsored by: ‘Willpower Citizens’
Whereas the people of Grenada have been searching and hoping for better days for over forty years, but have been let-down and frustrated due to poor leadership and inconsistent performance by successive governments;
Whereas the people have been given only those things which the political parties, enjoying unwritten rights of dictatorship, have decided to give them in keeping with their limited vision and insufficient understanding of how to develop Grenada;
Mindful that the parties have repeatedly defined the public interest in terms of their own electoral goals and interests, including influence in allocating welfare supplies to the “poor and vulnerable”, un-backed Treasury cheques to finance youth employment, distribution of Crown lands, the preferential award of contracts and the dishing-out of de-bushing jobs, etc. thereby causing the Grenada economy to fall ‘victim to the vote’;
Notwithstanding the failures of governments to significantly move the production needle, the human desire for development (betterment) is a daily hope which many people continue to expect the Government to deliver;
Convinced that the efficient and reliable supply of electricity to consumers (households and businesses), is a key indicator of the modernisation of a society impacting investment decisions, production and productivity, as well as basic human comforts;
Disturbed at the prospect that pockets of beneficiaries may emerge in the post-liberalisation period, whereas other consumers who are unable to afford the costs of procuring alternative power supply will face higher prices for electricity and that this will stretch inequity in the society;
Persuaded that constructive dialogue and negotiated agreements between private sector provider(s) and the Government will encourage investment decisions in the electricity sector without which consumers’ expectations and needs cannot be satisfied while at the same time allowing for strong profits;
Being aware that the parties to a contract may lawfully vary its terms without affecting the continuing validity of the contract, but that unilateral action by one party may be found to constitute a breach or repudiation of the whole contract calling forth appropriate remedies;
Mindful that there is sound wisdom in the old saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, such that enticements from other quarters may actually create unjustifiable risks;
Concerned that the entire scheme, at worst, may harbour or facilitate an intention to eventually replace one monopoly with another or; at best, inadvertently enable such an outcome given the known economic and financial realities imposed by the size of the domestic market for electricity;
Satisfied that it is wrong and short-sighted of Government to proceed by using a ‘big green Campeche whip’ in the given circumstances, not carefully assessing the business impacts of its actions and unmindful that the investment capacity of the country can be compromised where such actions induce fear regarding the stability of the business environment;
Noting with concern that governments in Grenada have historically failed, from a strategic perspective, to fully understand and successfully manage the development cycles from export agriculture to services (tourism) then to ICT and; therefore, there is grave doubt that the transition from there to renewable energy sources will be supported by effective management arrangements capable of advancing the development interests of the country;
Whereas it is not in the public interest for the Government of the day to seek to re-litigate the sale of majority shares in GRENLEC after twenty-two years; and believing that such approach may simply be a pretext for delivering a fatal blow to a rival political party;
And whereas the citizens of Grenada have no desire to see their Government embroiled in an unproductive power war with GRENLEC and ‘hanging on the powerline’, as the ‘Final Act’ in a long and bad-spirited saga:
Be it resolved:
(i) that Government restrict itself to presenting to the people the bare merits of its case for establishing a new regime governing the electricity sector, including a basic cost/benefit assessment, without partisan insults or personal ill-will;
(ii) that the Government cause the young people of Grenada to know all the facts surrounding GRENLEC’s condition before privatisation, as well as the spending decisions at the Ministry of Communications and Works between 1985 and 1989 which contributed heavily to the need for a Structural Adjustment Program by 1991;
(iii) that the Government on behalf of the people of Grenada place on record its appreciation for the quality of service and the massive direct community partnership investments provided to the citizens since WRB became a ‘Strategic Partner’ in 1994;
(iv) that the Government publicly recognise the broad-based ownership of GRENLEC shares by corporate and ordinary citizens of Grenada;
(v) that the Government presents the technical justification in support of its claim that a very significant price reduction will be had by removing the existing monopoly and allowing new players into the market to produce and supply electricity from renewable sources;
(vi) that the Government must negotiate with GRENLEC in good faith to achieve desirable and ‘up-with-the-times’ changes to the existing contract, to be duly reflected in new legislation;
(vii) that GRENLEC undertakes to engage in negotiations with the Government with a willingness to reduce the cost of electricity, to fast-track its use of renewables on an agreed timetable and to significantly shorten the term of its existing contract;
(viii) that the Government presents a set of scenario analyses to show the extent to which the NIS, being a significant shareholder in GRENLEC, the Treasury and GRENLEC employees will be affected by the coming into force of the new legislation and its subsequent implementation; also that Government ensures that the NIS and other citizens can purchase significant shares in foreign companies coming into the electricity market;
(ix) that given its view that GRENLEC’s profits are outrageous, exploitative and objectionable, and in an effort to protect the citizens which it sees as its responsibility, Government be bold and just enough to pass legislation setting ceilings on rates of profit for all business-types operating in Grenada, such profits deriving from prices charged to local consumers; and so that in the case of electricity supply, for example, a new investor is unable to make more profits than GRENLEC is making or agrees to make by agreement;
(x) that Government desist from using this issue as a tool in its propaganda arsenal and/or that it provides a timetable by which it intends to put right the many money wrongs/losses and other damages it has caused the Grenadian people, thereby taking responsibility for all costly decision errors it made recklessly or otherwise since 1995.
The People’s ‘Speaker and President’ say: “We eyes have it! We eyes do have it!”