Former Education Minister, Franka Alexis-Bernadine is warning Grenadians that increase taxes on the backs of Grenadians have just started under the 15-month old Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) Government.
Alexis-Bernadine, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) made the charge last week Friday at a sitting of the Senate to deal with government legislation to reduce by half the 100 % concessions granted to returning nationals.
The opposition Senator said she is disheartened to hear more promises being made by the NNP administration but all that is forthcoming is a steady flow of taxes.
“It is with disbelief that I sit here again … and listen to more promises again. We were told that sometime back, lots of money (coming from IMF, World Bank and CDB), up to now we can’t see nothing coming forward, nothing coming forward,” Alexis-Bernadine told the Upper House.
Prime Minister Mitchell had told the nation that from early May he expected to see millions flowing from institutions such as the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank , as well as the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to help bolster Grenada’s self-imposed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
There has been no further announcement from government on whether the funds were released to the Government Treasury in the Ministry of Finance.
The former Education Minister told the Senate that she would not waste her time arguing which government is responsible for the country’s financial woes as the people already know the answer to that.
“This nation is fully aware and feeling the pain every day, pain for what they knew before or what regrettably they put themselves back into,” she said.
During the 1995-2008 rule of Mitchell’s NNP, Grenada’s national debt skyrocketed to EC$1.8 billion from EC$373 million.
In March 2013, one month after returning to power, a new Mitchell government was forced to announce that the island could not service the outstanding debts owed to foreign creditors.
In his contribution to the motion, NDC new political leader and former Finance Minister, Sen. Nazim Burke warned Government that it could not tax its way out of the financial challenges facing the country.
Farmer’s Representative, Sen. Keith Clouden believes that the amendment to the legislation on returning nationals should be more equitable and not only target Grenadians living abroad who desire to come back home to live.
Clouden said he would like government to give the figures on how much it was looking to collect from this initiative.
He felt that foreign investors are the ones who enjoy the significant high levels of concessions and thought that Government would have seen it more prudent to streamline some of those instead of targeting returning nationals.
He called for concessions to be streamlined across the board and not limited to returning nationals who have and continue to make their contribution to nation building and development.
Culture Minister, Sen. Brenda Hood who tabled the resolution on behalf of government said that the reduction in the concessions is not permanent but only for a period of time” under the homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to ensure that government picks up the revenue so that salaries can be paid.
She said it is not business as usual but business unusual in Grenada hence the need for structures to be put in place and the call for everyone to make a sacrifice.
“It (the economic situation) would improve, it will take time”, said the senior government minister and former MP for the Town of St. George.