Former Finance Minister Nazim Burke has likened the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to nothing more than a whiner.
“We were told in the very first speech by this very government, made by the Prime Minister, we were told, we would not complain, we would not complain, all that we would do is go ahead and do what needs to be done, but every single day, all I’m hearing is whining. Every single time a Minister opens his mouth, I’m just hearing whining and whining and whining and whining … “, said Burke.
His remarks were made during a contribution to the 2013 CARICOM Development Fund Loan Authorisation Bill, 2013 that went before a sitting of the Senate last week Friday.
Burke held the portfolio of Finance in the 2008-2013 National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, which lost power to the NNP in February.
He and two other Congress ministers were appointed as Opposition Senators by former Governor-General, Sir Carlyle Glean.
Addressing the issue of unpaid bills by the Congress administration while in office, Sen. Burke told the House that the NNP has not kept its promise to work on building the country without complaining.
“A statement was given by the leader of the party and government that having assumed office his government will not be complaining about what was done or not done, that he would focus on, concentrate on developing the country and doing the things that needs to be done and if I’m seeing deeds that contradict those words I am entitled to say that I do not accept the position, that I’m seeing contradictions,” he said.
The former senior government minister said that the country’s debt to the CARICOM Fund were not paid because the Tillman Thomas-led administration had financial constraints and suggested that Mitchell’s NNP government get on with the country’s affairs.
“You are now there, the $17 million that we would have paid in the month of March for debts, were not paid because of restructuring, so you should have $17 million in savings, use it to pay some of the people that were not paid, that’s all,” he told the House.
Burke pledged his support to the Bill but cautioned the new administration to ensure that the monies being borrowed will be used for its intended purposes.
“I do hope the funds that are destined to the Grenada Development Bank do in fact end up in the accounts of the Grenada Development Bank. If you borrow these monies make sure it goes to the GDB”, he said.
During his stint between 2003 and 2008, Prime Minister Mitchell admitted that millions borrowed from a Trinidad & Tobago- funded CARICOM facility that were intended for the Coast Guard was used to pay the salaries of civil servants.
Earlier in the sitting, Parliamentary Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Ministry, Senator Winston Garraway informed the Senate that the new government was forced to pay $3 million to the CARICOM Development Fund Loan (CDF) for unpaid dues since the fund was established in 2009.
According to Sen. Garraway, as a result of the NDC government’s failure to pay, Grenada was unable to benefit from the Fund.
The CARICOM Development Fund Loan Authorisation Bill, 2013 gives the Minister for Finance the authority to borrow from the CARICOM Development Bank an amount not exceeding US$3.5 million to support the Grenada Development Bank, and the Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs), Standards, Metrology and Certification; Energy development (energy efficiency in the tourism sector); and Information and Communications Technology.
The loan will be taken at an interest rate not exceeding three percent per annum.
The CDF was established under Article 158 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas for the purpose of providing financial or technical assistance to disadvantaged countries and sectors.
It is characterised as the centrepiece of the regime to address the disparities among Member States of CARICOM, which may result from the implementation of the CSME.
The Agreement Relating to the Operations of the Fund was signed in July 2008 and the CDF began operating on August 24, 2009.