Former Tourism Minister, Dr. George Vincent has accused the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell of nurturing low productivity in Grenada.
In responding to the 2014 Budget and government’s plan to increase productivity particularly within the public service, Dr. Vincent told a sitting of the Senate last week Friday that the government of Dr. Mitchell has failed to disclose how it plans to increase productivity.
The theme for the 2014 Budget is “Building the New Economy Through Higher Productivity And Shared Sacrifice For The Benefit of All.”
When he presented the budget to Parliament on December 10, the Prime Minister told the house he believes that to accomplish what is set out to build the New Economy requires that Grenada becomes a productivity centre of excellence.
He said then, “Over the past 30 years, labour productivity has fallen steadily in the Caribbean. Low productivity is now a drag on economic growth and job creation. Consequently, if we want to accelerate economic growth in Grenada, we must raise our current levels of productivity.
“But the productivity challenge is not limited to labour. It requires a change in mindset by the public and private sectors. Indeed, it requires changes in behaviour by both managers and workers.
“To this end, we have started developing a national productivity enhancement programme that will cover public awareness, understanding the causes of low productivity and taking practical steps to raise national productivity starting with the Public Service. Of necessity, this campaign must address lateness and absenteeism, which are chronic diseases now plaguing our country.”
However Dr. Mitchell’s utterances about low productivity was thrown back at his feet when Dr. Vincent made his presentation in the Senate on the 2014 Budget debate.
He said that low productivity in both the public and private sectors has been nurtured for years under the NNP leadership of Dr. Mitchell as workers especially those classified as road workers/debushers were encouraged to work for two hours per day and given a full day’s pay.
He said that the problem was further compounded with the increase focus by NNP on road repair projects and the debushing programme.
According to Dr. Vincent, the hallmark of these programmes is poor management, supervision and victimisation of workers.
The former government minister accused the NNP administration of victimising highly trained and qualified workers and replacing them with political appointees.
He cited for example the removal of experienced banker, Lester Andall as Manager of the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) and the appointment of a retiree, Ashley “Ram” Folkes as Commissioner of Prisons.
Dr. Vincent brushed aside claims made by Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism, Civil Aviation and Culture, Senator Brenda Hood who said the named individual was not fired but choose to resign from the post.
He said the individual was pressured to resign after being humiliated in public by the NNP.
During the political campaign leading up to the February 19 poll, NNP officials often referred to the salaries in excess of $EC 20, 000 per month paid to Andall.
Referring to Andall as a “highly qualified individual”, Dr. Vincent pointed out that he was replaced by a Trinidadian national with far less qualifications who was paid on par with the previous position holder.
This, he argued does not instill trust or unity on the part of the Mitchell-led government.
The senior member of the National Democratic Congress accused the NNP government of sending public workers home, forcing some of them into retirement and replacing them with political appointees, some of them with a criminal record.
He took issue with the government flagship programme for the youth, the Imani by asking the regime to explain what happens with these young people after the six months of training ends.
Government says that 2, 000 persons have been “employed” under the Imani programme.
Dr. Vincent also used the Senate sitting to highlight what he sees as many contradictions, deceptions, dishonesty, inconsistencies and misplaced priorities in the budget presentation from the Prime Minister.
He said that over the past six months the country has been hearing the right words and phrases spoken from the Mitchell regime such as “team Grenada” and calls for fiscal discipline but he questioned the sincerity of government’s true meaning of these words.
Dr. Vincent said he believes that the promises made in the budget by the NNP administration, is nothing more than a sugar coating for the bitter medicine to be administered to the people as part of the three-year homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme to arrest a deteriorating fiscal situation plaguing the island.
The Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) has described Grenada as a cancer patient in need of chemotherapy to deal with the severe economic and financial crisis facing Grenada.