Following is the address delivered January 13, 2013 by Prime Minister Tillman Thomas at the Bus Terminal at Sauteurs in St. Patrick in which he announced the date for next month’s general elections
My brothers and sisters, I greet you today with a sense of history and with great pride in our Party, the National Democratic Congress.
Our movement was founded in 1987 during extremely challenging times for our country. The NDC’s coming into being was, in fact, a response to the heartfelt need of the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique for trustworthy, capable political leadership that would heal and unify the country for nation building.
We can take pride in the fact that since that time, inside and outside of political office, our Party has remained true to the democratic principles on which we were founded.
Internally, we have weathered many storms, but we have not only survived, but are ready to face the future.
And today we can stand together, confident and secure in the knowledge that we are united in our dedication to the people and in our determination to lead this country into a new era of economic and social well-being.
As it was at the time of our birth, this is a challenging period for our nation.
It was four and a half years ago that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) took over the reins of government. Once again we were responding to the call of Grenadians for the kind of leadership that would best serve their interests.
The call was for leadership that would clean up the country and restore confidence; one that would inspire and empower the nation to rise up out of the mess, mismanagement and mayhem that characterized the previous administration.
We responded positively and received a resounding mandate from the people.
But What Did We Inherit?
* A bankrupt economy deep in debt and unable to pay its bills;
* Rising unemployment with a quarter of the labour force unemployed and workers being laid off;
* Chronic poverty with 4 out of every 10 Grenadians living below the poverty line
The Global Economic Recession
As bad as this situation was, worse was to come during our first year in office. In addition to the challenges we inherited, the global economy experienced its worst recession since the Great Depression of 1929.
The crisis, which began in the United States, the world’s leading industrial power, quickly spread across the globe.
Both developed and developing countries, including those in our Caribbean region rocked and reeled under the crisis as unemployment soared, and cutbacks in welfare programs and social benefits became the norm.
Our country, having been ravaged by Hurricane Ivan and with an economy already in decline, was particularly vulnerable.
We have certainly felt the effects of the global economic fall-out. Our administration has had to work very hard to rescue this country from the pit of hopelessness and despair into which the nation had been plunged before we came to office.
It has been an uphill struggle, but today we can say that while the journey is by no means over, we have climbed to higher ground. There is light. And there is hope.
We have begun the task of reconstruction and building. And we are gathered here to present to you, the Party’s team that will take on the task in earnest during our second term of office.
Let us be mindful that the world has changed tremendously over the last five years. It is a completely different place than when we came to office. The old prescriptions for survival no longer work.
As a nation, we are being challenged to create a blueprint for Grenada to take its place in the line-up of developed countries. We are being challenged to ensure that our people are well prepared to avoid the pitfalls and take advantage of the opportunities and possibilities offered by the new world that is emerging.
The task of mobilising Grenadians to shape the future of this country cannot be put into the hands of the reckless and rudderless.
We cannot go back to the bad old days of corruption and failed leadership. Those days are behind us. No turning back. We have to move forward.
We need a trustworthy, capable, and talented team to develop the innovative policies and effectively implement the programs that reflect the new realities of the global village.
There is no doubt in my mind that we of the NDC have the team for these times. Our team of candidates that we will be presenting to the electorate represents a rich blend of youth and experience.
The spirit of adventure and the fresh ideas that our younger members provide will work in harmony with the wisdom born of solid, valuable experience of the more mature.
Yes, we are the team for these times, the team we need to continue the work that we started in this first term of office. In this brand new world emerging, Grenada cannot afford to take the risk of returning to the old, failed leadership of the past.
This is not the time to turn back. This is the time to keep moving forward. Let us consider how far we have come and how much further we intend to reach.
When the NDC Came to Office, Our First Priority was to stabilise the Economy and Prevent Further Job Losses
We achieved this objective by taking bold and creative action to provide opportunities for gainful employment and expand the social safety net.
* We expanded the program to maintain public infrastructure.
*We created jobs in the agricultural sector through the Farm Labour Support Program.
*We gave incentives to the private sector to keep their workers employed.
* We provided welcome relief to taxpayers by offering a 100 percent waiver on interest and penalties for full settlement of outstanding tax liabilities.
Even as we took steps to stabilize the Economy we began laying the foundations for the transformation of the Economy to achieve sustained Economic Growth, we strengthened the two traditional sectors of the economy, tourism and agriculture.
In the tourism sector, we completed the National Tourism Strategic Plan, which will guide the development and expansion of the sector over the next decade
We have invested over $28.1 million in airlifts since 2009 and as a result, there are more airlines serving Grenada today than ever before.
We have facilitated the start up of new tourist attractions. One is the Spice Basket, which provides visitors with a special Grenadian experience in culture and entertainment. The other is the Discovery Train, providing tours of our picturesque and historic city.
WE MUST CONTINUE TO GO FORWARD WITH TOURISM. NO TURNING BACK.
The growth in the agricultural sector over the last two years of 9.4 percent in 2010 and 8.25 percent in 2011 is nothing short of spectacular.
Nutmeg production has increased by 100 percent, from 1.1 to 2.2 million pounds and the 300 percent increase in the export of this crop has made a significant contribution to foreign exchange earnings.
Cocoa production has also increased significantly, moving from 1 million to 1.5 million pounds in one year.
We have secured funding in the amount of $54 million for the construction of 22 agricultural feeder roads around the country, which will create over 200 jobs and provide the necessary ease of transportation to our farmers.
The Grenville Market Project, which is being constructed at a cost of $35.6 million, is now eighty percent complete. Over 100 construction jobs were created on that project. The first phase of the St. George’s Market has now been completed at a cost of $3.3 million, creating a further 15 construction jobs in the process.
WE MUST CONTINUE TO GO FORWARD WITH AGRICULTURE. NO TURNING BACK.
We will also be expanding the Economy by focusing on FIVE Transformational Pillars:
Transformation Pillar Number 1: Education Health and Wellness Services
* We will be developing a new public hospital with teaching facilities at a cost of $178 million. The site for the location of this hospital has already been determined and the International Company that will construct the Hospital is visiting Grenada as we speak.
* We are facilitating the construction of the UWI Open Campus in Hope St. Andrew, which will involve an investment in infrastructure of $11 million in the first phase and create hundreds of job opportunities for Grenadians.
Transformation Pillar Number 2: Tourism and Hospitality Services
We have secured the agreement of the Sandals International Group to construct a Sandals Hotel – an investment of $270 million in Grenada. Construction will commence shortly and will add another 228 rooms and provide 375 jobs during the construction period and 500 jobs when operations begin.
* Negotiations are being concluded with the developer for the construction of the Four Seasons International Hotel on Mt. Hartman – Hog Island. This project involves an investment of $400 million and will add another 150 rooms, providing an additional 300 construction jobs and 400 permanent jobs when operations begin.
* We will be modernising and upgrading the Lauriston Airport in Carriacou, which will allow fifty-seat aircraft to land and provide facilities for night landing.
Transformation Pillar Number 3: Agri-Business
* Already, we have seen the establishment of a state of the art fishing complex at Gouyave, St. John through co-operation with the Government of Japan. This has undoubtedly improved the quality of the fish sold to consumers by improving availability of ice, better storage facilities.
* At present, Government is collaborating with the Grenada Cocoa Association in the establishment of a new Chocolate Factory in Diamond, St. Mark. This plant is now 90 percent complete and will produce high quality chocolates for export to Europe and the United States, where one buyer has already been secured. Twelve (12) persons will be employed in the first instance.
* In partnership with members of the private sector, Government will participate in the establishment of a state of the art Poultry Farm in the parish of St. Mark that will locally produce one half of Grenada’s annual consumption of poultry and over 6000 tons of badly needed fertilizer per year for our farmers.
Transformation Pillar #4: Information & Communications Technology (ICT)
* With support from the Government of India, we have demonstrated our seriousness by opening the ICT Centre of Excellence and Innovation (ICEI). Already, through the Centre, scores of Grenadian have benefited by upgrading their IT skills. Some have been able to secure jobs locally while others have accessed external employment online.
* Over the next two years, the ICT Centre for Excellence plans to train 2,000 persons in several courses. All persons completing the courses of study will obtain C-DAC (Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing) certification. The duration of these course range from three to nine months.
* With this certification, many of these persons can expect to be employed and earn from EC$2,500 to EC$8,000 per month. The courses include Embedded System programming, Cell Phone Repairs and Servicing, Mobile Applications Development, Building E-business, Windows Programming, Business incubation and Work At Home.
* It is our intention that these courses will be offered in various parishes to ensure they are accessible for persons interested, young and not so young.
* In addition, the Centre of Excellence also plans to set up an Outsourcing Centre to facilitate employment for some of these trained persons on the international market.
* In order to improve the efficiency of Government services, we shall undertake the establishment of a joint venture for delivery of ICT services to government.
* With the assistance of the World Bank, we will be establishing a Caribbean Regional Communications Infrastructure Program that will provide for the development of a national ICT backbone to connect all public institutions. It will also link Grenada to Carriacou and to Petite Martinique, giving residents of both islands the same opportunities in ICT as is available on the mainland. Fellow Grenadians, we are closing the digital divide. This project will cost $27 million.
Transformation Pillar #5: Energy Development
Sisters and Brothers, for us, Energy is a development issue. There can be no development without energy. This is why we have developed a National Energy Policy, which contains a 10-year sustainable Action Plan (2010- 2019) with measurable indicators or milestones of progress. This is also why we have established our GREENADA VISION 2030 – an ambitious but realistic objective to convert Grenada into a 100 percent green island by 2030.
The core policy decision contained within the National Energy Policy is to wean our economy off of diesel and gasoline and to transition to renewable energy both for electricity generation and for transport.
In addition, reduction in the cost of energy is a major factor in making the economy more competitive.
* That is why we have just negotiated and reached an understanding in principle, on what would be a most historic agreement with Emera/Light and Power Holdings (LPH) that will usher in a New Development Framework for the Electricity sector in Grenada.
* That Agreement will strengthen the capacity of Government to implement the National Energy Policy. It will empower the ordinary citizens and commercial enterprises to own and operate small electricity generation systems using indigenous renewable energy sources and to sell the excess generated to the Grid at rates determined and agreed to by Government.
* In the meantime, given our potential for hydrocarbon development, we have negotiated a Framework Energy Cooperation Agreement with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and will use that country’s over 100 years of experience to jump start our oil and gas industry.
* We are engaged in negotiations with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago towards the conclusion of a Joint Development Zone (JDZ) Agreement that would see, when concluded, the joint development of designated marine acreage shared by both countries.
* We are expecting a delegation from Trinidad here on January 22 – later this month – to continue these negotiations and hope that the first parcel of maritime area in Grenadian waters will be licensed for oil and gas exploration and production later this year.
These are the five Transformation Pillars on which we will construct an economy that will deliver sustainable growth, job creation and social development.
To fully realise the opportunities that exist in these five transformational sectors, however, we must educate and train our people and we must develop the necessary infrastructure- both physical and institutional.
Sisters and Brothers, the quality of education and training determines the productivity of the labour force. For this reason, even with other pressing fiscal demands, we are committing 15 percent of the total budget to education and training.
We take pride in the fact that Grenada has abolished the Common Entrance Examination, and that there is now universal access to secondary education.
We will be adapting our vocational training programs to the needs of the labour market, in order to prepare our workers for the jobs that will be created as the economy expands.
This is why, in the short four and a half years of our administration, we have undertaken a massive schools rehabilitation program to significantly improve the physical infrastructure of our educational institutions, including the refurbishing of primary and secondary classrooms; we have spent over $13.5 million to provide free textbooks to our students; we have instituted an extensive Teacher Training Program up to degree level; established a National Training Agency; equipped our schools with 300 new computers; established a partnership with a telecommunications company to provide free internet access to all schools; and assisted 1463 students with university tuition support at a cost of $5.9 million.
Similarly, in the area of Physical and Institutional Infrastructure, we have identified, planned and mobilised resources for a number of projects that would provide the necessary support and facilitation for the development of the transformational pillars.
With support from the governments of Australia and the United Arab Emirates we will be constructing the long awaited new Parliament Building at a cost of $21 million.
We will also be constructing a new Government office complex at a cost of $19 million, to house the Department of Audit, the Public Service Commission and the Office of the Ombudsman and the Integrity Commission.
At a cost of $30 million, a new high court – the Halls of Justice – with modern amenities is to be built. The construction site is already selected and the designs completed.
A site has already been identified for the construction of the Office of the Governor General, which was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan.
Our program of cooperation with the government of China will provide $85 million for the construction of a new National Athletics Stadium to be named after our Olympic superstar, Kirani James.
THE NDC LEGACY
Sisters and Brothers, the NDC’s ‘footprints’ on the Grenadian society are distinctive and truly transformational. Today, we are proud to present as the legacy of our first term in Office, these bold and priceless ‘footprints’:
* The best years of agricultural revitalisation in the post-Revolution period;
* The best years of educational advancement since independence;
* The best years of youth development and sport in decades;
* The best years of social advancement in fifty years;
* The best years of good governance since 1974
I feel compelled to state that Our Party is not just committed to Governance but to Governance that Embraces All of the People. Our consultative approach, respect for the rule of law and deliberate efforts to be inclusive, transparent and accountable have made a refreshing difference to the process of governance in our country.
AND So Sisters and Brothers, Let Us Go Forward with the Economic and Social Transformation Agenda into our Second Term.
Today, we stand United, Strong and Ready. Today, we have no doubt that, we have a high calibre team. We have every confidence that, with our high calibre team, the NDC will successfully implement the ambitious transformation agenda we have set for Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Our confidence is also bolstered by the fact that Grenada is ranked among the world’s top ten performers in doing business in 2010. We have now climbed to 73rd, up from 98th in 2008, in the ranking for ease of doing business globally.
It is my privilege to lead a united, competent, hardworking team with the capacity and commitment to make Grenada one of the finest countries to live, work and raise families.
This team has been strengthened with the addition of ten (10) new outstanding men and women of exceptional character, competence and commitment, who are now members of TEAM NDC. We welcome them with open arms, pride and confidence.
* Help me welcome George Vincent, who will represent us in the Constituency of St. John.
* Help me welcome Franka Bernadine, who will represent us in the Town of St. George.
* Help me welcome Randall Robinson, who will represent us in the Constituency of St. George South East.
* Help me welcome Dennoth Modeste, who will represent us in the Constituency of St. Mark.
* Help me welcome Merle Byer, who will represent us in the Constituency of St. George South.
* Help me welcome Harrison Fleary, who will represent us in the Constituency of Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
* Help me welcome Terry Hillaire, who will represent us in the Constituency of St. Andrew North East.
* Help me welcome Adrian Persuader Thomas, who will represent us in the Constituency of St. David.
* Help me welcome Joseph Andall, who will represent us in the Constituency of St. Patrick West.
* Help me welcome Ali Dowden, who will represent us in the Constituency of St. George North West.
These 10 outstanding citizens will join hands and hearts with five stalwarts of our Party whose commitment and record of service is deserving of the highest commendation.
Join me in commending V. Nazim Burke, our Deputy Political Leader and Minister of Finance, Planning, Economy, Energy and Cooperatives.
Join me in commending Alleyne Walker, Minister of Housing, Lands and Community Development.
Join me in commending Patrick Simmons, Minister of Youth Empowerment and Sports.
Join me in commending Sylvester Quarless, Minister of Social Development, Labour and Social Security
And then of course there is your humble Servant.
Sisters and Brothers, I am unshakably convinced that NDC is the Right Party to lead Grenada at this time. We have the team for these times – the team that will lead our country forward. We must continue to move forward. No turning back.
With this team in place, I have come to the decision that the time is right to seek a fresh mandate from the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Sisters and Brothers, after consultations with the Governor General, I have decided on the date for the holding of General Elections.
And so today, I wish to announce that the next General Elections in Grenada will be held on Tuesday, February 19th 2013.
Now that the date has been announced, it is left to His Excellency the Governor General to issue the WRIT. Until such time as the WRIT is issued, persons are free to register to vote.
I therefore encourage all those who have not yet done so to immediately go and get registered so that you may join with all other eligible persons to help determine the future of our dear land.
In closing, I wish to thank all those who have contributed to our success over the past four and a half years and urge all Grenadians to stay with us for the Good of our Country.
With God’s grace and guidance we shall be victorious!