The Grenada Private Sector Organisation (GPSO) says that several businesses on the island could close their doors by this time next year due to the failure of the Tillman Thomas-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) Administration to come to their rescue.
Some of the leading private sector organizations in the country, grouped under the GPSO umbrella, called a press conference last week Thursday to paint a picture of doom and gloom for the Grenadian economy in the coming months.
The principal figures at the session were President of the Grenada Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GCIC), Aine Brathwaite, President of the Grenada Hotel and Tourism Association (GHTA), Ian Da Breo and GCIC member and Managing Director of Sissons Paints, Senator Christopher De Allie.
The GPSO, which is dominated, by a number of prominent supporters of the main opposition New National Party (NNP) warned that without help, dire economic consequences could befall the country.
According to Brathwaite, “the private sector is gasping for breath” as many of its dialogues and requests from the Congress administration have failed.
She acknowledged that Government has to play its role in upholding the private sector but warned that “it cannot be about sound bites and lip service.’’
In what can be described as one of the most stinging outbursts from the GPSO, the female Chamber boss said that they are tired of rhetoric and want positive action from the Thomas-led government.
She stated that the plight of the private sector has never been more unpredictable as it is now as many businesses are threading waters and may soon sink.
“This is about jobs, investment, opportunities and growth for all. Government must exercise real-time strategies to curtail the serious demise of the Grenadian private sector which continues to spiral downwards and out of control,’’ she said, adding that they are witnessing an erosion of the private sector at an alarming rate.
Among requests GPSO members claimed they have made to the four-year old government in the past few months without success are for manufacturers’ relief on paying Value Added Tax (VAT), and assisting hoteliers who are struggling with high-energy costs.
Brathwaite indicated that the private sector has tightened its belts to the full and are unable to do more tightening.
She noted that Grenada’s unemployment rate is at an unacceptable level and that if conditions continue many more will join the unemployment line, hence support for the private sector is of paramount importance at the moment.
The GCIC President disclosed that to date government owes private businesses (manufacturers) $7 million in rebates and in excess of $100 million in public debt to the private sector.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Da Breo who says that the GHTA has been under pressure for the past 10 years and that the industry is now facing “a national crisis” as many property owners have already borrowed heavily to keep their businesses afloat.
He said that with the threat of closure facing these property owners more than 2000 direct jobs in the industry is at risk adding that many workers are already on rotation.
Da Breo provided figures to show that to date, eleven of Grenada’s hotel properties have either been closed or turned into student accommodations.
This year alone, he said the bank has foreclosed nine properties, six are stressed, eight are severely stressed out and that by this time next year those figures could be doubled.
The GHTA President is seeking government assistance in securing a soft loan facility to help refinance their debts and grant funding from international organisations to keep the sector afloat.
One of the private sector’s biggest challenges is the exorbitant energy cost facing the nation’s hoteliers and according to Da Breo grant funding is urgently needed to implement energy saving measures.
The GHTA also expressed concerns about the budget given by government to the Grenada Board of Tourism (GBT), which he said, is presently working without an operating budget.
De Allie, who is also Business Representative in the Senate said what the private sector desires is for government to be “more proficient’’ in what it does and how it does it.
In airing his concerns, De Allie made several remarks regarding the politics of the country and the upcoming General Election carded for next year.
When asked if this is a kick-off to the election campaign, he said the GPSO is unconcerned that some may interpret the airing of the organisation’s grievances as politically motivated.
“What you can be assured of at any time in this private sector,’’ said De Allie, “is that you would never see us coming and say we support the demise of this government over another one. That you will never see.’’
He pointed out that the GPSO is focused on business and not politics.
“From a business point of view,’’ he said, “If we don’t have an environment that speaks to confidence and predictability, we have a problem. And we’re going to say that to the Prime Minister. How he deals with it – whether politically or otherwise – that’s his call. He’s the politician, not us. We’re just the business people,’’ De Allie said.
The GPSO also welcomed the takeover of LaSource Resort by Sandals Resort International (SRI) and complemented the swift manner in which the transaction was done.
The GPSO is confident that the acquisition of the Sandals brand would no doubt aid in the marketing of Grenada as a destination and increase flight arrivals to the country.
LaSource ceased operations in October and is expected to start business under the La Source/Sandals brand in the first quarter of 2013.