A senior Minister in the Keith Mitchell-led Government has reacted to claims made by a reporter at a press conference in St. George’s that the “hope” that was promised by the New National Party (NNP) to convincingly win the January 2013 general elections has now disappeared and turned into despair on the face of Grenadians.
However, Communication & Works Minister Gregory Bowen is confident
that this sense of hopelessness will disappear from the people as soon as Government signs the much-talked about “Letter of Intent” with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a critical component of the Structural Adjustment Programme.
The Mitchell government is looking to the IMF for funding to the tune of EC$300 million over a three-year period to help address a severe fiscal situation facing the island.
The one-year old administration has suspended payments of the island’s estimated EC$2.5 billion debts to international creditors.
As part of the Structural Adjustment Programme, the NNP government has failed to deliver on the many promises of jobs but has instead resorted to a series of austerity measure including a widening of the income tax net, and huge increases in property taxes.
Minister Bowen blamed the sense of hopelessness in Grenada as the work of opposing political forces and the lack of support from public officers, trade union representatives with respect to the programme.
He conceded that there was some degree of uncertainty with the NNP’s Home-grown Structural Programme with the IMF since some feared that it might not be implemented.
“Once you hear that we sign this thing, you see all the hopelessness disappearing and then you could actually start to say we want to see the work on the ground,” he said
“The hopelessness doesn’t stem from work on the ground, the hopelessness is a feeling that perhaps with the politics as you say in the air with all the spin that things may not happen, that’s where the hopelessness comes from, and it’s not you alone on the ground, we are also on the ground”, Bowen told the media.
The senior government minister admitted that it was painful for the NNP to implement this type of programme with the IMF and to increase taxes in order to try and raise revenue.
However, he said the austerity measures being introduced are necessary as 70% of government’s recurrent revenue goes to paying salaries and wages, leaving the remaining 30% to spend on social services, health and other services.
Government collects an average of $35 million monthly and spends $50 million.
Minister Bowen stated that the government needed to tell the nation the truth about the current fiscal situation in the country.
“What we must tell the people is that they must realise that all of us must work together to ensure that the programme – fiscal stability – must first be put in place”, he said.
He accused opposition elements of going out there “and putting the spin and trying to stop the signing of the letter of intent”.
Minister Bowen said he was confident that once the trade unions give support to the programme “all the hopelessness will disappear, all the political spin will disappear ….”.
“It is difficult to understand why some of us who call ourselves Grenadians would be trying to stall this (signing of letter of intent), and not only that, would be elated and joyous and in glee whenever the country suffers and that’s where the hopelessness comes from,” he remarked.
The NNP government leaders have often pointed an accusing finger at the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for most of the uncertainty in the country.
Last Monday night, political activist Kennedy Budhlall, a former executive member of the NNP suggested that Prime Minister Mitchell should be voted out of office in the next general elections if he failed to arrest the deteriorating fiscal situation in the country.
However, Budhlall was confident that the Prime Minister was the best person to handle the job that was needed to resuscitate the ailing Grenadian economy.