The Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) has given Grenada the thumbs up for its Structural Adjustment Programme and is confident that if the approach is continued then the objective can be met.
Those were the words issued by Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine who has emerged as the key player in the plans outlined by the 19-month old Keith Mitchell-led administration to revitalize the island’s ailing economy.
Antoine also announced that a government-appointed Monitoring Committee of which he is a member has so far had two meetings to look at the Structural Adjustment Programme and the grouping is doing the job that is expected of it.
He was optimistic that government is keeping on par with its commitment given to the IMF and other international organizations with respect to the Letter of Intent on the measures to be implemented to turn around the Grenadian economy.
“Everybody has the Letter of Intent, it has been published widely, and everybody has it. The monitoring committee members have it and they have developed a template in terms of reporting on the specific things under the programme, sometimes they also ask us things outside of the programme, which we answer because we want to make sure everybody understands what is happening,” he said.
The letter of intent outlines the package of austerity measures to be undertaken by the cash-strapped Mitchell-led administration in St. George’s to address Grenada’s ailing economy.
Some of the measures already implemented include a widening of the income tax net to capture more taxpayers, increases in property tax, and a hike in a number of government service fees.
Government has also served notice that it intends to further increase property tax next year by implementing a new valuation that was done on existing properties in the country.
Antoine also made mention of the existence of a grouping of “Social Partners that meet monthly with Prime Minister Mitchell to review the performance of SAP.
He said: “… That high level committee which includes churches, business, labour unions, civil society and government, they meet on a monthly basis and they discuss high level policies. They may discuss any number of issues, whether it is the debt restructuring, whether it is Casino, whether it is the Carriacou project, whether it is the social issues in the country, and they share views and they don’t always agree but there is a spirit in which they have these discussions – very maturely and they look at how we recommend solutions and so on”.
According to Antoine it was the Social Partners that agreed to the formation of the Monitoring Committee “because they see the need for a different body to handle that aspect of the Structural Adjustment Programme”.
“We look specifically now at the programme itself … so that helps government because we have somebody watching us locally in addition to the IMF that is monitoring monthly and is coming in to the country every six months to do a formal review…”, he added.
“… It’s all part of ensuring that everybody is on board, everybody is watching,” he said.
Antoine indicated that the role of the Social Partners is to look at those areas within the Structural Adjustment Programme that needs urgent attention.
“If there are corrections to be made, they (Social Partners) would identify it.
He cited for example the suggestion made by the Social Grouping at the last meeting that it was progress being made with the programme in a number of areas but not enough on waste reduction in the public service.
“The target is at least 20% reduction on non-personal expenditure for the first half, (they said) you did 11% (that is) ok so you making progress, that’s encouraging but we think you can do more”, he quoted the Social Partners grouping as telling government.
“…They also said on tax administration in terms of revenue collection, they believe more could be done and we have (looked at) those comments and we see them as constructive and we are basically taking steps to improve so as we go along we hope that we could show better results…”, he added.
PS Antoine is confident that the programme is progressing well and that the sending home of workers from the public sector to save on expenditure is not on the cards at the moment.