Deputy Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Joseph Andall has refuted claims made by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Keith Mitchell that the local economy is now in better shape than during the four and a half year reign of the former Tillman Thomas-led administration.
During a nationwide mid-term address last week, Dr. Mitchell said that upon taking Office in February 2013, his New National Party (NNP) government inherited a “dismal and dire situation.”
He said Grenada was in a deep recession with virtually no growth between 2009 and 2012.
Dr. Mitchell said that for the past 27 months his government focussed on putting the country’s “fiscal house” in order and fixing the economy.
“Is the Grenadian economy better now than it was in 2012? The honest and objective answer to this question is yes,” he said.
Dr. Mitchell told the nation the economy is growing with an average of at least three percent in 2013 and 2014, and is expected to grow by the same rate this year.
He said unemployment has fallen from 40 percent in 2012 to 29.5 percent in 2014.
In refuting the claims of PM Mitchell on the current state of the Grenadian economy since the NNP came into office, Andall pointed persons looking for answers to dwell upon the following:
“Is the economy better now than in 2012? I want you to go and ask the Vendors who you (Mitchell) chased off the streets if the economy is better for them. I want you to ask the parents who now have to find thousands of dollars to buy school books since you destroyed the school books programme if the economy is better for them.
“I want you to ask the bank workers in Grenville and Carriacou, and elsewhere who have been sent home because the banks no longer have confidence in the economy of our country, ask them if the economy is better. Ask all the people from the many little stores, restaurants, construction firms who have been sent home, who are on rotation if the economy is better. Ask the bars which can only see a decent amount of activity on the Friday after month-end these days if the economy is better”.
Andall appeared on a radio talk-show programme to refute the claims of Dr. Mitchell about a buoyant economy under his watch as opposed to Thomas’ Congress regime.
The NDC No.2 man said it is important to look back at how Grenada got to the present economic situation, and to keep focussing on the many malpractices that brought the island into its current economic woes.
He blamed the country’s economic plight on the decision taken by Dr. Mitchell in 2005 to lift the personal income tax threshold to $60,000 per annum against the professional advice of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and other major financial institutions.
The NDC Deputy Political Leader reminded the host of the programme of the four hundred million dollars that were given away in guarantees by
the NNP and which now form part of the national debt, as well as the failed Poultry Farm project at Victoria, St. Mark’s that never got started.
Andall read part of an audit report that was done on Grenada’s Broilers Inc, the operators of the Poultry farm under Dr. Mitchell’s watch.
The report said in part, “the company paid a total of $453,881.81 as employment cost for Financial Controller and an Operations Manager.
$254,485.31 was paid over a 16-month period from July 1, 2004 to October 31, 2005 to the Operations Manager in the form of emoluments, travelling, relocation, and termination of contract.
$199,396.50 was paid to the Financial Controller over a three-year period.”
According to Andall, this kind of information is sufficient to show that Dr. Mitchell has to take full responsibility for the financial and economic difficulties in the country.
He also alluded to Dr. Mitchell’s announcement in the national address that this year more than $300M will be spent by government on debt repayment.
The NDC Deputy Political Leader accused Dr. Mitchell of putting in place the “poor management and oversight structures” that resulted in the collapse of SGL Holdings, CapBank International and NALGICO insurance which resulted in $500m vanishing from the local economy.
Andall also addressed the issue of assets having been sold by the Congress Government to pay salaries.
He reminded the nation that those assets were bought by the state-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS) and they remain part of the national patrimony.
He said that on the other hand, NNP gave away assets while referring to the 20 acres of the then Grand Beach Hotel to grand prix driver, Lewis Hamilton.
“So when Dr. Mitchell wants to talk about selling properties, yes the NDC did sell, but he committed a grave act, almost a treasonable act by giving away our national assets,” he added.
Andall also charged that some home owners on the island are now losing their homes as they are unable to meet their financial obligations with the various banks and other financial institutions.
He touched too on NNP‘s dismantling of the free schoolbooks programme, and the duty-free barrel programme instituted by NDC as part of the safety net programmes for the vulnerable people in Grenada.
The senior Congress official chided NNP for being insensitive as its action has now caused a financial strain on parents who have to find thousands of dollars to purchase schoolbooks.