Prime Minister Mitchell said the country is on the path to sustainability but a lot more needs to be done.
His remarks were made soon after the throne speech was delivered by Governor General, Dame Cecile La Grenade at the opening of the fourth session of the ninth parliament at the Grenada Trade Centre last week Wednesday.
The speech that is written by government and given to Dame Cecile to read highlighted the priority areas that are intended to turn things around in the country’s economy.
Termed “Moving Forward Together,” the speech identified the priority areas for government in the upcoming period as rebuilding the economy and creating jobs, investing in the people, and strengthening national unity.
On the critical question of rebuilding the economy and creating employment, The Island’s female Head of State touched on the Homegrown Structural Adjustment Programme, which she said was now well advanced.
“According to the most recent reports of the International Monetary Fund and other partners, the fiscal situation is improving, growth has resumed and employment is on the rise. Indeed, the economy is growing faster than originally projected,” she told the sitting of both Houses of Parliament.
“In pursuit of faster job creation, my Government will further expand its support for small business development through the Grenada Development Bank and the Small Business Development Centre of the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation,” she said.
Speaking with THE NEW TODAY after the delivery of the Throne speech, Prime Minister Mitchell said the fiscal situation is improving but there is still a lot more to be done.
“We expect to see a lot more improvement in the economy of the country, we had a growth of 4.8% last year and we expect that the growth this year would also be good and next year would even be better.
“We’re moving in the right direction – I am very hopeful. I can’t tell you it will be different from that country or this country but I know we are doing reasonably well”, he added.
In her address to Parliament, Dame Cecile stressed that as part of its commitment to provide safe and healthy working conditions at the work place, government intends to introduce a policy on Occupational Health and Safety and legislation on Occupational Health and Safety will soon be tabled in Parliament.
According to the GG, as government continues on the path to investing in the people, the Mitchell-led administration has decided to place high priority on the country’s health care.
She said a major operation is underway to repair the dysfunctions and deficiencies of the health care system that will require strong and caring leadership, investment, collaboration and mutual accountability.
“Within its financial capability, my Government will do its utmost to improve health care services. However, it is very obvious that more investment without better management and accountability by all will not address these challenges. Playing political football with issues of health is not helpful. We need the advice, support and involvement of all,” Her Excellency said.
This is a clear reference to attacks from the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the state of healthcare at the island’s major hospitals, and the working conditions of Junior Doctors and Nurses.
The GG announced that a ten year National Strategic Plan will be instituted to deliver the quality health care that is needed in Grenada.
This, she said will be built on six pillars – Health Service Delivery, Human Resources for Health, Health Information Systems, access to Essential Medicines and Medical Technologies, Financing and Leadership and Governance.
THE NEW TODAY Newspaper also spoke to Minister of Health, Nickolas Steele last Wednesday on this initiative.
He said the plan is being worked out along with the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and expects that it should be finalised before the end of the year for implementation in 2016.
He spoke of the European Development Fund pledging financial assistance to the scheme, which speaks to Primary Health Care in particular, and the costing of it.
“We want a drastic or significant reduction in non-communicable diseases, we want affordable and accessible health care to all. We want a teaching hospital, we want a new hospital as well, we want all of our health centres to be upgraded and to offer the services that the communities expect,” he said.
PM Mitchell also called for an end to partisan politics in the delivery of health care on the island.
“The hospital is not in a satisfactory state, it was far worse when we came in with no medication, they weren’t paying pills – nothing. We’re better off but we’re far from where we should be. I am not absolving my government from any blame for not having it better at this particular stage but I think we are moving in the right direction.
“I expect to see more and more improvement but I cannot tell you that things will be perfect and the way we want it to be by next year but we’re moving aggressively.
Dame Cecile also indicated in the Throne Speech government’s intentions to ratify three International Labour Organisations (ILO) Conventions – Repatriation of Seafarers, Workers Representatives and Domestic Workers.
In this regard, she said the administration will bring a Revised Labour Code to Parliament in early 2016.
THE NEW TODAY Newspaper spoke with Labour representative in the Senate, Ray Roberts on the proposed revised Labour Code.
He said that the Labour movement would like to see “very important inputs” made in so far as to the rights of workers.
“There is a section in the Labour Code, 66 (1) which gives a vague conclusion which says at the end of a strike the employer would have the prerogative of determining when the workers should come back to work…we can’t support that. We believe within a week or so people should be able to return to work so that’s a contentious one.
“…We believe that there should be some stipulation that after seven days, after five days, something of the sort but it can’t be an open ended thing where it is used in a spiteful way to disenfranchise workers, frustrate workers and even to victimise workers. So we are going to ensure that this thing has an amicable conclusion.
The issue arose out of strike action taken by the powerful Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) against the Grenada Breweries Limited (GBL).
The throne speech is a forerunner to the 2016 Budget to be delivered to Parliament at the end of November by Prime Minister Mitchell in his capacity as Minister of Finance.