By Nelson A. King
Brooklyn, New York – As Grenadians in New York on Saturday night wrapped up their official independence anniversary celebrations, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell has reiterated his fervent call for national unity.
In delivering the keynote address at the gala Independence Anniversary Ball and Awards Ceremony, at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn, Mitchell said, despite political differences, “we must be united in that exercise.
“In my view, it is time for us to unite,” he told the sell-out audience in his 25-minute address, referring to the country’s 40th independence anniversary theme, “Uniting Our People, Restoring Hope for Our Future.”
“Tonight, I make this clarion call,” he said. “We’ve fought politically for the last 40 years. That’s healthy for democracy.
“I make a call today for all of us, despite our differences, let us unite. Let us unite to build our country first,” the prime minister stressed. “If we are serious, uniting our forces is key to our success.”
After 40 years in the political arena, Mitchell said he wants his legacy to be that he “did everything possible to unite our country.
“I call on all of us to unite to build our land,” he accentuated, later repeating a brief part of his independence address made a day earlier at home on Independence Day.
“Sisters and brothers, I stand here today with pride, with a renewed sense of will, knowing that we will emerge out of the dust; and we shall rise again and cross over to a place of renewed optimism, unity and prosperity,” said the Grenadian leader, alluding to new English translation of 1 Cor. 13:11: “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish ways.”
“I stand here today as your humble servant, who has been given the onus to lead a 40-year-old independent nation of hardworking, responsible citizens,” he added. “Let us set aside childish ways, learn from past mistakes and resolve to walk with purpose to our Promised Land.
“Let the vision of our Father of Independence (the late Sir Eric Matthew Gairy) shine brightly as we strive for a better life for our children and grandchildren,” Mitchell continued. “Let the collective laughter and goodwill of our people endure through these tough times.
“And let the demonstrated love for our neighbour and our nation be the bridge that connects our pride and vision,” he said. “And let our faith in God, the Supreme Architect, never waiver.”
Mitchell also called on nationals to “correct the mistakes” of the past and “rebuild Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique,” stating that “all of us have contributed to where the country was” economically.
He underscored that Grenada has “tremendous problems” in which “70 cents of every dollar goes to pay the way bill of public servants, 30 cents goes towards meeting the debt of the country.
“Therefore, there is no money left for health, education and infrastructure,” he said. “Clearly, this is unsustainable. In the face of this, over the last five years, there has been no economic growth.”
Unable to sustain the country’s debt, Mitchell, therefore, said that he will sign this week a “Letter of Intent, which says Grenada is prepared to do and what the international community can do to help Grenada get out of the morass.”
The Grenadian leader said the economic program is a “Grenadian program – not an IMF (International Monetary Fund) program,” stating that there is a “general acceptance over which we have no choice.”
He said the island’s trade unions and non-governmental organisations have been working with his administration to “come up with the best program.”
Mitchell said once the Letter of Intent is submitted and accepted by the IMF, Grenada stands to receive EC$100 million each year for this and the next two years.
He said the money will be used to “spur economic activity – to further diversify agriculture and tourism.”
In addition, he said the tranches will be used to “help the marginalized.”
“The onus is on all of us to make sure the program is successful,” Mitchell urged. “I expect to see things moving forward in the next coming years.”
Last week, Minister of Economic Development, Planning and Trade, Oliver Joseph, told radio listeners and television viewers that the Keith Mitchell administration was seeking the assurances from the trade unions ahead of signing and submitting the Letter of Intent to the IMF, which encompasses, among other things, a three-year wage freeze for public servants.
“I want to appeal to all the Grenadian people to work with us,” Joseph said. “This is a national issue; this is not a political issue. We are about nation-building.
“We have this long term plan to see Grenada out of this fiscal situation it is in; and, at the end, Grenada will benefit,” he added.