Government’s claim of debt servicing tested

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has challenged statements made by a senior Cabinet minister, Alexandra Otway-Noel that the Keith Mitchell-led administration has paid off more than fifty percent of the national debt since coming into office two-and-a-half years ago.

Congress leader, Nazim Burke is taking issue with Otway-Noel and called on Prime Minister Mitchell to clear the air since his minister is misleading the nation.

The Minister of Implementation told a recent radio programme that “the NNP Government has paid off more than fifty percent of the national debt in the two and a half years we’ve been in Office’.

She went on to say: “Some of it (the debt) has been written off, and some of it has been paid off. We are earning revenue, people are investing – both locals and foreigners are investing in Grenada, confidence is high.”

Sen. Burke has debunked the claim saying “it is a complete figment of her (Otway-Noel) imagination, a complete fabrication.”

According to the NDC Political Leader, Prime Minister Mitchell who is the country’s Minister of Finance owes it to the nation to step forward and explain that his minister’s statement is a lie, and to apologise to the nation.

Sen. Burke, a former Finance Minister, indicated that the national debt is not a secret as it can be obtained from the documents that have been prepared and generated by the Mitchell Administration and submitted to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He said the Fund after doing a complete examination of the local economy in July 2014 as part of the three-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), put Grenada’s public debt at $2.012BN in 2010, $2.120BN in 2011, $2.230BN in 2012, and at the end of 2013 it was $2.412BN.

Just over a week ago Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mike Sylvester reported that the national debt, which previously stood at $2.5BN before the current debt restructuring, now stands at $2.3BN.

Sen. Burke also challenged government’s claim of reducing the unpaid claims in the Treasury, which was at one time estimated at $118M.

The Congress leader referred to the IMF 2014 report on the status of the local economy which said that at the end of 2012, public sector arrears stood at US$28.7M which is equivalent to EC$77.49M.

He said the report added that at December 31, 2013, the unpaid claims in the Treasury stood at US$30.6M or EC$82.62M.

Sen. Burke also chided the Mitchell-led government on the issue of outstanding monies by Grenada to Regional Organisations by way of annual contributions as a member.

He said the IMF report indicated that unpaid contributions at the end of 2011 stood at US$34.29M, while at the end of 2012 it rose to US $45.36M and at the end of 2013, the sum reached US$57.51M.

Prime Minister Mitchell has often claimed that his government since taking office after the February 2013 general election, has been able to significantly reduce Grenada’s subscription arrears to international organisations and agencies.

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