The Leadership of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) does not believe that the people of Grenada would have an enjoyable Christmas Season due to the continued depressed economy.
Party officials voiced their concerns about a possible bleak Christmas for the people during a public meeting held last week Wednesday at Byelands, St. Andrew’s.
Congress General Secretary, Patrick Simmons who recognised that the country is now into the Christmas Season said it is important for the people of Grenada to be aware of what is happening around them.
Simmons said even if he uses the opportunity “to say to all of you Merry Christmas and a productive 2016,” the people still have to remember the one-Billion Dollar Budget that was just presented by Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Dr. Keith Mitchell, and the process of Constitution reform.
“Notwithstanding that we want to have a productive 2016, the budget will not allow us to have it,” he told the gathering.
With the Parish of St. Andrew’s viewed as the “bread basket” of the country, Simmons said he was not satisfied with the allocation of $42.2M given in the budget for agriculture and fisheries.
He felt more should have been given for agriculture, which is still considered as one of the leading sectors for growth of the island’s economy.
“They (the government) are saying to us, that they don’t want us to have a productive 2016,” he said.
Simmons also expressed his dissatisfaction over the $500,000 that is allocated to the farm labour support programme.
“I must say to you still, Merry Christmas and a Productive 2016 notwithstanding up to this present time our government doesn’t see it fit to open the abattoir… after it was constructed so many years ago by the NDC Administration,” he remarked.
Simmons, a former Minister of Youth and Sports in the 2008-13 Congress government of Tillman Thomas, took issue with the budgetary allocation of $1,000 as an increase in the salary to be given next year to Press Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Kisha Alexander-Grant.
He noted that this is being done at a time when the NNP Administration has imposed a three-year wage freeze on the salaries of public servants as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme.
Alexander-Grant is the only high profile member of government within the civil service to be granted a sizeable increase in wages in Fiscal 2016.
Former Minister of Social Services, Sylvester Quarless who joined his colleague in indicating that it would be a “tough Christmas Season,” told the people they can no longer go forward on their knees.
Quarless spoke with disappointment about the announcement of no back pay to nutmeg farmers this Christmas Season.
“We are looking forward for the back-pay because we know what the social impact, apart from the economic impact, that this back pay has on our community,” he said.
Quarless implored the people to be prepared “to battle” the Mitchell Administration during the next General Elections that are constitutionally due in 2018.
“We might be looking docile, but the time will come, and we’re waiting to ‘X’ them out of office anytime that election is called,” he said.
The former Representative for St. Andrew’s South West encouraged the people to get registered so that they will be able to exercise their civic duty in participating in the electoral process.
He said that as the country goes forward into a new year, the people should ensure that those who are willing to have the current administration changed are registered to vote.
Mitchell’s NNP has control of all 15 seats in the lower house of Parliament following its clean sweep at the polls in general elections held in February 2013.
Quarless also took a swipe at the projects that were announced in the budget by Dr. Mitchell.
The former Government Minister indicated that 21 of the 29 projects referred to by the Prime Minister have been recycled from since 2013.
Quarless who is a businessman operating a fleet of gas stations around the island believes that there would be another increase in the petrol tax while the price on the international market is being reduced.
He pointed to a recent BBC News report, which indicated that very soon the price of a barrel of oil on the international market will be within the region of US $20.00.
The former NDC Government Minister said when Congress was in government, it was very open to the people.
“We said times (are) tough, things are hard. We said we were in a bad economic position, we were going through a financial meltdown and Grenada will not be spared, and we will have to be prepared to mitigate against this crisis”, he said.
‘We were not listened to, instead we had a man… dispensing promises after promises, as the saviour and economic miracle-maker,” he added.
Mitchell’s NNP had campaigned to win the election on a promise of thousands of new jobs, an influx of foreign investors and the building of a new economy for Grenada.
NDC Caretaker for the St. Andrew’s North East Constituency, Terry Hillaire is bringing Christmas cheer to children in St. Andrew’s, beginning tomorrow (Saturday, December 19).
Hillaire who also addressed the NDC public meeting at Byelands threw out an invitation to parents in the area and the wider St. Andrew’s North West Constituency who cannot afford to buy toys for their children to have them come to the Cocoa at Paradise, St. Andrew’s where they would receive a gift.
Another Christmas tree lighting is also planned by Hillaire to take place on December 23 at Tivoli playing field.