Minister Steele lashes out at NDC

A senior Government Minister in the Keith Mitchell Administration has accused the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) of “muddying the waters” with statements being made on critical issues.

Member of Parliament for the Town of St. George, Nickolas Steele who holds the portfolio of Minister of Health and Social Security took a swipe at Congress and its leader, Nazim Burke during Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing at the Ministerial Complex.

“There is a difference between a proper administration which involves negotiations on all parties, negotiations with WRB, negotiations with Grenlec (Grenada Electricity Services Limited), negotiations with NIS (National Insurance Scheme), negotiations with nurses and union, and trouble-making… and making statements that are less, if not less than accurate, quite possibly false, and only seek to muddy the waters”, he told reporters.

Minister Steele accused Burke of misleading the public over comments he made that the U.S government has withdrawn a partnership agreement with Grenada as the pilot nation for renewable energy due to the current state of affairs between the Mitchell Administration and WRB, which is the major shareholder of Grenlec.

During a press conference held last week by Congress, Sen. Burke said that during a leadership tour of North America by NDC officials, they had picked up reliable information that the energy initiative between St. George’s and Washington that was signed on August 27, 2014 as part of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative has been pulled back due to government’s hostility with WRB.

According to Minister Steele, when he was Minister of Foreign Affairs he was directly involved in the negotiations, and that in the United States a monopoly is considered to be illegal.

“…The US State Department will not venture to support or perpetuate a monopoly,” he said.

The senior Government Minister told reporters that the ruling New National Party (NNP) government has not said that it does not want WRB, only that it wants to change the status quo on the supply of electricity for the benefit of the people of Grenada.

Steele said he believes the US State Department is and will be most supportive of that process.

“Any other statement made implying anything else is misleading the public, and borderline on being dishonest,” he added.

WRP purchased majority shareholding interest in the island’s sole electricity company during the 1990-95 rule of Congress then under Sir Nicholas Brathwaite.

Current Prime Minister Dr. Mitchell has always branded the deal as the “worst thing” to have ever happened in the country and often threatened to change the ownership of the company.

Minister Steele also chided the NDC Political Leader for accusing the current rulers of not seeking the best interest of the state-owned NIS.

Sen. Burke had told the media last week Wednesday that Congress will hold the Mitchell Administration accountable to make sure that the interest of the workers’ monies are protected.

His remarks were made against a deal that the NNP regime struck with NIS as part of the ongoing Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to seek debt relief from financial institutions.

Minister Steele who has responsibility for the NIS as Minister of Social Security blamed Sen. Burke, in his capacity as Minister of Finance in the 2008-13 period for conducting various deals with the NIS including the purchase of State assets to get money to pay salaries of civil servants.

He also denied Burke’s claim that the Mitchell government has not been making contributions to NIS.

“The Government of Grenada is paying NIS contributions every month, and is reducing the backlog which accumulated between 2009 and 2012,” he said.

Minister Steele told the media that the stock of arrears to NIS up to January 2013 stood at $24.2M, while at the end of October 2015, it was brought down to $19.8M.

The Social Security Minister announced that between January 2013 and September 22, 2015 government made payments of $68.8M to NIS.

However, he did not give details of the amount of monies that government owes the scheme.

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