What a contradiction!

Senator Roberts - delivered on behalf of labour in the Senate

Senator Roberts – delivered on behalf of labour in the Senate

Excerpts from the presentation made by Labour Representative in the Senate, Ray Roberts on the debate of the 2014 budget

When the Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell took the oat of office in February among his key words were: National Unity. We in labour and I am sure Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique welcomed this champion for national unity.

Ten months later much of the call for unity seems to have evaporated. Our leader demonstrates a behaviour that he is the chosen one and everyone else is a mere follower.

No doubt about it, the initiative by the Prime Minister to give special time to work with the Social Partners is excellent. He deserves an “A”. However, at the same time one cannot ignore the Prime Minister’s attitude to a section of the population, and members of the last government.

It does not speak well that the leader of the nation who strongly advocates unity and here in Parliament aggressively lambastes opponents, doing everything possible to make them irrelevant.

Nothing is more ridiculous than Dr. Mitchell’s crucifixion of his predecessor who declares himself a soldier for Christ in politics. What is wrong with a person who desires to be a solider for Christ?

I am a strong believer and I salute anyone in public office, as imperfect as he maybe, to make such a profound declaration – I want to be a solider for Christ .

Dr. Mitchell reads more chapters from the Holy Bible than anyone else in this Parliament, but it is clear that he does not want to be a soldier for God. What a contradiction!

Clearly it can be concluded that the Bible readings performed by the Prime Minister in the Parliament are scriptures given to him to read and therefore are merely repeating words without comprehending them.

His ministers who debated the National Budget seem to relish a divided country. Each followed Dr. Mitchell’s trend of beating up on opponents.

Mr. President absolutely nothing is wrong with the current government commenting on the failure of the last government’s inability to pay money owed to international organisations on a timely basis – however, this Government of Dr. Mitchell is the biggest defaulter re:debt payments in the history of Grenada, and must admit the reality of our economic crisis.

Mr. President through you to the Leader of Government Business – your government has not paid any creditor in 2013 – you defaulted $10 million in March and again in September. You continue to owe the local private sector millions! Let’s not make one side look horrible and Dr. Mitchell looks good using the media.

So Mr. President let’s pray and pray for a change of attitude in the New Year. National unity must not be words repeated and repeated – the Prime Minister and his Ministers must show leadership and we the people will follow.

Equally important is the fact that if the many words of prayers and bible readings by Dr. Mitchell are to have meaning they ought to be manifested in his actions.

Mr. President, our Home Grown Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) is a serious test of the government’s leadership and discipline. We in the labour movement impress upon the government to stick to the program.

In our engagements with the IMF, it was made very clear that maximum assistance for Grenada depends on the government’s obligation to the program; therefore, that commitment ought to be forthcoming.

As a member of the Social partners, the TUC supports the Civil Society monitoring mechanism re the Structural Adjustment program that was submitted to the Minister of Finance.

The aim of this mechanism is inclusive participation, ensuring that not just the government and IMF follow the program but also the wider Grenadian population.

Therefore we trust that the government will see the wisdom in full disclosure of documentation as related to the SAP

Labour and the Social Partners expect to have the documentation for the performance criteria and time lines as well as quantitative and qualitative benchmarks for the respective sectors targeted under the SAP.

Among our recommendations are an independent monitoring committee for the SAP to be chaired by the East Caribbean Central Bank, with one representative from each of the respective social partners who will have access to reports.

Mr. President, very important to labour and civil society is the empowerment of a debt management unit, playing a pivotal role in ensuring that debt reduction targets are met.

For example, the policy of the government that limits the replacement of retiring workers from the public service to just 30 percent as well as working to reduce the massive government monthly deficit among others.

Mr. President, labour and Social Partners expect this mechanism protocol to be entered into in good faith.

Mr. President, the consequences of a failed SAP will be devastating to the workers and the population in general of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique – it means we will have to take a second dose of IMF medication and it will be much more severe.

Our greatest concerns are – the discipline of the government – like it predecessor of the last four and a half years, we have seen a number of retirees brought back – the Commissioner of Police, a Commissioner of Prisons; backbenchers in Parliament being paid ministers’ salaries along with jobs for the boys and the girls.

In addition, the government since returning to office has appointed seven new Permanent Secretaries at salaries in excess of $5000. We now have the largest number of Permanent Secretaries in our history. Such action does not reduce the monthly salary bill, but rather increases it.

Politicians often blame each other for corruption when in opposition and when in government turn a blind eye.

Mr. President, reports of senior officers awarding their spouses and friends small government contracts are noted. We hear of security companies being formed and headed by a spouse to protect Ministry facilities and on the sister Isle contracts to a spouse which is then sub-contracted. Such must not be ignored!

These allegations must be investigated, assuring the public that senior officers are not using the system to enrich themselves.

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