Labour Representative in the Upper House of Parliament has once again voiced concerns about Grenada’s controversial Citizenship By Investment Programme (CBI).
In his contribution to the debate on the 2016 budget, Sen. Roberts told the Upper house of Parliament that he is hearing “in between the corridor activity” of someone collecting US$250,000 for fast-tracking the applications of those seeking to gain Grenadian Nationality through the CBI Programme.
“I want to say to the Prime Minister… these are things we must keep a tab on. You can’t have people in the corridors of power engaging in behind the scene activity,” Sen. Roberts said.
He suggested that the Ministry of National Security must clarify what he has been hearing about persons within government circles collecting large sums of monies behind the scene.
Reports have been circulating in the country about the payment of US$250, 000.00 (EC$679, 225.00) from the account of a local legal firm to a bank account linked to a high-ranking member of the Keith Mitchell-led government.
Sources told THE NEW TODAY that the state-controlled Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) would have intercepted the banking information in keeping with regulations for local commercial banks to pass on information on monetary transaction over a certain sum.
According to a source close to the administration, a large chunk of the near $EC700,000.00 payment was used by the government member to make payments on a luxury property in the St. George’s area.
Sen. Roberts told the house that the 2016 budget is being presented during a period of severe economic hardship for thousands of unemployed Grenadians, and a most challenging time for even those who have a job.
He stated that pensioners too are severely challenged because they have to pay a long list of taxes to government as a result of the ongoing Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
“These are very dark days for workers in Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique,” he told Parliament.
According to Sen. Roberts, the country is also affected by “low wages, frozen salaries, increasing unemployment, and families… losing their homes because many are unable to pay their mortgages”.
In addition he said that some businesses are under relentless pressure because of the limited and, in some cases, zero spending power of the people of Grenada.
The Labour Senator stressed that he saw nothing exciting about government’s decision to regularise the status of 205 teachers out of 600.
He said it is unacceptable that the temporary teachers received confirmation into the system effective September 1st 2015 without receiving retroactive payment, although they were in the system since 1998.
“So they have lost 15, 16 years of dedicated service, and they all have… Teacher Certificate Education,” he added.
Sen. Roberts felt that the confirmed teachers should have received “a reward” for their service over the years when they were temporary in the system.
He also indicated that there are other public servants in the system who remain temporary for 10 to 15 years, and because of their status are unable to access loans or be able to do anything to better their lives.
“It is grave injustice to have employed a worker for 15, 20 years and at the end of his working life, just simply say, goodbye, go home in poverty,” he said.
The Labour Senator appealed for doctors and nurses who are in temporary positions for years to receive the same treatment as a group of Police Officers who were recently appointed to senior positions.
The veteran trade unionist also made some passing comments on the national debt of approximately EC$2.7 billion, describing it as “a financial curse.”
He charged that eighty percent of the debt that was recently restructured with the bondholders was a creation of the “flamboyant Minister of Finance” and it was very unnecessary.
“The Mt. Hartman hotel project, the Ritz Carlton, the Riviera Hotel, the infamous Garden Group – all of these are the debt we are now spending to pay,” he said.
Sen. Roberts quoted from a section of a presentation from his predecessor, Sen. Chester Humphrey made to the Senate about the national debt on December 12th 2007.
Humphrey who is now President of the Senate, said at the time: “It took five hundred years and many administrations, more than five hundred years from the arrival of (Christopher)
Columbus up to 1995 for us to engage in a national debt of $373M… It took the Keith Mitchell Government 13 years to take the national debt to $1.7BN.”
Sen. Humphrey, who is now aligned to the Mitchell-led regime as part of the so-called “Project Grenada” initiative with former Congress members Peter David and Joseph Gilbert, was seen with a light smile on his face as Roberts used his quotation.
PM Mitchell has often been accused of raking up the national debt through a massive borrowing and spending spree during his earlier 1995-2008 rule of the island.