The command has been given to the workers of the nation to prepare themselves to take to the streets should the state-controlled National Insurance Scheme (NIS) proceed to give government a haircut on millions owed to the financial institution.
The 18-month old Keith Mitchell-led government has approached the NIS along with other creditors for a haircut as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to deal with a high debt stock.
Since coming into office in February 2013, the Mitchell government has defaulted on debt payments to the island’s major creditors.
Addressing a recent meeting of the Upper House, Labour Representative in the Senate, Raymond Roberts told the Parliamentary session that the labour movement is totally against any haircut for government by NIS.
“We want to call on workers to arm themselves to take to the street in large numbers if the Directors of NIS ever give a haircut. This money is for pensioners, people who have retired and people who are old aged. You cannot take that money for haircut – forget about it,” he said.
According to Sen. Roberts, the anti-haircut block is unanimous among all of the seven affiliates of the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC).
The trade unions have sought the support of the Grenada Employers Federation (GEF) to get its two members on the NIS governing board to support the two others representing the TUC to vote against any such proposal that comes up for discussion.
The TUC is confident that if the Employers give support the motion for a hair cut from NIS could be defeated 4-3 on the vote.
Sen. Roberts described the Mitchell administration as one of taxes.
He pointed out that in every meeting of the Senate there is always a new tax measure on the order paper.
The regime has been forced to implement a series of austerity measures in order to get the support of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank for its Structural Adjustment Programme.
Sen. Roberts told the Upper House that in1995, Dr. Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) were voted into office by the electorate on a culture that it can run the country successfully without collecting Personal Income Tax from workers earning less than $60,000 per year.
He noted that less than one year after returning to office in February 2013, the NNP regime was forced to institute a Structural Adjustment Program which now calls on workers who earn$3000 and above per month to pay income tax. Sen. Roberts blamed Prime Minister Mitchell for the financial debacle in which the country has now found itself.
He charged that between 1995 and 2008 the Mitchell governments embarked upon a spending spree.
In addition, he said that Grenada’s current leadership is void of wisdom and leadership that was synonymous with former Prime Minister Sir Eric Gairy who took the island to independence from Great Britain in 1974.
“I pray that the current leadership will be bless with as much as 10% of Sir. Eric’s wisdom. If that is forthcoming better days may be ahead,” he told the Senate.
Meanwhile, two independent Senators Raymond Roberts and Keith Clouden are finding it difficult to receive answers to questions that are asked of government Senators in the upper house of Parliament.
During the last seating of the Senate, Sen. Roberts along with Sen. Clouden who is the Farmers representative voiced their frustration over the failure of their opposing peers in the Senate to provide them with answers on a timely basis.
Leader of government business in the Senate, Minister of State for Implementation, Sen. Kenny Lalsingh who was asked a number of questions by Sen. Roberts said once again that, “The answers are not available right now.”
Similarly questions asked of the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Sen. Winston Garraway by Sen. Roberts also went unanswered.
No answers to questions also came from the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Sen. Simon Stiell.
In his reply to questions directed at him, Sen. Stiell once again told the Senate that he is still working on the answers and should be in a position to submit them at the next seating.
According to Sen. Clouden this was the same answer given by Sen. Stiell at the last sitting of the Senate.
Sen. Roberts pointed out to President of the Senate, Lawrence Joseph that the questions were filed over two months now and that in a democracy it is expected that Senators should be more efficient.
“This is almost three months and these questions are still unanswered. This is obviously not fair to Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique,” Senator Roberts told the Senate meeting.