As the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) prepares itself for the next general election to try and regain State power from the ruling New National Party (NNP), it has announced that plans are afoot to put together a 20-year plan to govern Grenada.
Aspects of the plan were unveiled to the media by NDC Political Leader, Senator Nazim Burke during a press conference held last week Wednesday at the party’s headquarters on H.A. Blaize Street in St. George’s.
Sen. Burke told the media that as a result of the just concluded NDC Leadership North American tour, the party’s Policy Development Committee is finalising a long-term work programme for governing the island.
He disclosed that already, the 28-year old political party has developed its vision, and is now putting together a work plan for the next 20 years.
Sen. Burke, an attorney-at-law by profession, indicated that Grenada cannot beg, borrow or tax its way to prosperity as a nation, but that the country has to find ways to grow the economy.
He believes this can only be done if those sectors of the economy that have the greatest potential for long-term sustainable economic growth are tapped.
The NDC Boss reminded the media that Congress has already identified five such economic pillars rather than having a two-pillar economy of agriculture and tourism.
Sen. Burke said Congress sees the youth and the Grenada Diaspora as the two biggest areas of change that can be used to transform the economy in a sustainable way through the five sectors that have been identified.
He pointed out that Congress embarked upon the North American trip that took them to New York and Washington DC in the United States and Montreal and Toronto in Canada under the theme, “Partnering With The Diaspora To Build A Strong And Vibrant Grenada,” during which time they had the opportunity to engage the people on a wide range of activities that are seen as being of great benefit to both the Diaspora and Grenada.
According to Sen. Burke, there is no doubt that the Diaspora has made, is making, and will continue to make a significant contribution to the long-term development of Grenada.
“The Diaspora cannot be viewed as a cow waiting to be milked. The Diaspora has to be seen as genuine partners in a development effort where we can use their presence abroad, their experience abroad, their resources gathered abroad to contribute to and to develop our country,” he told reporters.
Sen. Burke who served as Finance Minister in the 2008-13 Congress Government noted that the remittances coming from the Grenadian Diaspora is greater than the grant money Grenada receives from all of the multilateral institutions combined.
NDC Party Chairman, Dr. George Vincent who was a member of the touring party spelled out the benefits that are likely to come out from the trip.
He said the development of the health sector is one of the areas of assistance Congress is seeking from the Grenadian Diaspora.
According to Dr. Vincent, a request was made for the supply of basic medication for the people of Grenada.
He said the group also embarked upon a school supplies drive as a means of easing the financial constraints parents now have to face from having to purchase school books and other material for their children attending school.
He recalled that during NDC’s stint in government, a free schoolbooks programme was initiated to help cushion the economic constraints, but it has now been scrapped by the current administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
“As an opposition, we are asking the Diaspora if they can gather in their different communities, in the Grenadian-owned businesses in New York, Toronto, Montreal and Washington school supplies,” he said.
Dr. Vincent said that in Congress’ quest to empower the people of Grenada, especially those in the rural communities, a particular proposal was put forward to the members of the Diaspora.
He said a request was made for them to provide agricultural equipment in the form of mills and grinders to add value to locally produced agricultural products.
Public Relations Officer (PRO) o the party, Sen. Franka Bernadine spoke of the Grenadian Diaspora yearning for information coming from their country of birth.
The former Education Minister who piloted the “free schoolbooks programme” pointed out that the Grenadian expatriates in North America complained that they were not getting “a clear and honest picture of the situation” back home.
She said they also expressed concerns about the state of health care in the country and how it would impact them if they decide to return to their homeland.
I addition, Sen. Bernadine said concerns were also raised with the touring NDC party about the lack of the transparent process by the Mitchell-led administration on the controversial Citizenship By Investment Programme (CBI) involving the sale of Grenadian passports to non-nationals.
Government has taken the decision to not reveal the identity of the people who have obtained Grenadian Citizenship through the passport-selling scheme.
Sen. Bernadine said the people they engaged at the various Town Hall Meetings expressed deep concern for Grenada and pledged their support to enhance the country’s development.