Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Nazim Burke has underscored the critical role the Diaspora has to play in Grenada’s economic survival.
Sen. Burke who was at the time addressing members of the media in New York as part of the NDC Leadership North American Tour singled out the importance of the remittances that are received from the Grenadian Diaspora.
As a former Finance Minister, Sen. Burke disclosed that in 2012 Grenada received over $77M in remittances, and $41M in grants from the multilateral partners around the world while Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) amounted to $106M.
Sen. Burke said judging from the figures, the Diaspora has a critical role to play in investment and community projects.
The NDC Leader whose address surrounded a number of issues relating to the state of affairs in Grenada indicated to the media that the four-city tour that includes New York, Washington DC, Montreal and Toronto in Canada was undertaken to share with the Grenadian Diaspora.
He said while as an opposition, NDC has the responsibility to identify and criticise the wrong that is taking place in Grenada, the party also has the responsibility to present the country with an alternative by informing the people of its vision for Grenada.
“We see our role as constructing, not destroying,” he told reporters.
The NDC Boss said while there is no official opposition in the House of Representatives, the fact is that forty-one percent of the people who exercised their franchise at the last General Elections voted for Congress.
The New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell – for the second time in its history – won all fifteen seats in the poll.
Burke indicated that his party’s style of governance does not embrace polarisation.
He said one of the sharpest criticisms levelled against the Tillman Thomas-led Administration during its 2008-13 tenure in office is that it did not “look sufficiently after its own.”
He stressed that NDC treats everyone equally, and the party has taken the stance that all Grenadians have to live.
“We must provide for everybody, that is our responsibility as a government. You may or may not support us, but we should not punish you because you do not share our views,” he said.
Former Prime Minister and immediate past Political Leader, Tillman Thomas also recognised the importance of the Diaspora to national development as he addressed the assembled reporters in New York.
He recalled that under his watch as Prime Minister, Grenada held a Diaspora Conference in 2009 and 2010 with the intention of strengthening the country’s relationship with the Grenadian Community living overseas.
Thomas said NDC is aware of the potential and talent of the Diaspora and would like to have structures in place to benefit both Grenada and the Diaspora.
The former Prime Minister gave assurances that as a founding member of Congress, the current leadership under Burke has his full support.
Thomas stepped aside in 2014 as Political Leader and passed on the baton to Burke, his former Finance Minister.
Deputy Political Leader Joseph Andall who was also on the Leadership Tour chipped in on the importance of the Diaspora, indicating that those Grenadians living abroad have to be treated as an equal partner.
According to Andall, those days when the Diaspora was seen as “a cow to be milked” has gone and suggested that a protocol should be put in place to ensure that members of the Diaspora receive reasonable incentives to invest in their country.
The NDC No.2 man described the economy as being “broke” under the Mitchell-led administration and focused on how Grenada found itself in an economic bind through the NNP regime in its 1995-2008 rule of the island.
Andall also spoke of the tax regime adopted by the Mitchell Administration to raise revenue as part of the enforced Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to arrest a severe fiscal imbalance.
He said that since coming into Office in 2013, the Mitchell Administration introduced 28 taxes, fees, levies, licenses under different guises on the population.
He charged that the income tax threshold, which was lowered from $5,000 per annum to $3,000, has affected the middle class in Grenada where NDC gets most of its support.
In addition, Andall said that some of the key safety nets introduced by Congress in Government have been removed by the NNP administration.
Andall, a former Lecturer at the state-owned T.A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC), indicated that the downsizing of the free schoolbooks programme, which caused parents to save about $750.00 per child, is now replaced with a $50.00 voucher targeted mainly at NNP sympathizers.
He said the voucher, which is redeemable at specific retail stores, is distributed to recipients mainly from the Constituency offices of NNP Parliamentarians.
NDC Chairman, Dr. George Vincent addressed reporters on how the rebranding and reorganisation of the party have been taking place since the devastating results in 2013.
According to Dr. Vincent who is the party’s Caretaker for the Constituency of St. John, over the past two years Congress has been putting structures in place that were not existing.
“We now have a functioning organization”, he told the assembled media.
NDC has in place a number of Caretakers for several constituencies as it prepares itself for a possible early general election within the next 12 to 15 months.
Public Relations Officer of the NDC New York Chapter, Bernard Bourne informed reporters that since the 2013 General Elections a lot have been happening in Grenada.
Bourne said the people in Grenada “have been fed a certain diet” by NNP that is imposed by a Structural Adjustment Programme, which is supervised by the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).
He stated that during the past two years, NDC has been working on rebranding itself and rebuilding in its quest to regain state power.
“We believe that the Grenadian Diaspora is ready to listen to the NDC,” Bourne said.
He believes that NDC’s vision of rebuilding a new and vibrant Grenada by partnering with the Grenadian Diaspora in North America is an important and sensible strategy for achieving this vision.