Grenada has registered 50 deaths in March.
The statistics was given by former Minister of Social Services Sylvester Quarless while speaking last week Wednesday at the regular People’s Parliament held by the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) at Soubise, in St. Andrew South-east.
Quarless, the Congress Caretaker for the Constituency of St. Andrew South-west believes that the huge number of deaths in March is due to the suffering of Grenadians under the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
“Our people are suffering and we deserve better,” he told party supporters attending the meeting.
Quarless described the financial outlook in St. Andrew’s as being very bleak due to the closure of a number of business places including three banks in the island’s largest parish.
He claimed that about 18 businesses in Grenville have been forced to close their doors to the public.
Quarless who is one of the local gas dealers on the island once again addressed the high price of petroleum in Grenada.
He said while the price is dropping on the international market, it is continuing to rise on the island due to the increase in petrol tax by the Mitchell-led government.
“Government is taking $5.50 on every gallon of fuel you put in your tank… It is $2.50 higher than what is taken in St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Dominica,” he said.
Quarless noted that six months into 2016, the administration has only provided one fortnight of the part-time debushing job for some people in the lower level bracket.
The former Government Minister said this is unlike in the days of Congress when those part-time jobs were provided three times per year.
Quarless also took a swipe at the tax measures imposed by the Mitchell government since taking office in February 2013.
He said after preaching to the people in the election campaign that it will not add new taxes, the regime has imposed 29 new taxes on the backs of the Grenadian people.
“Today they cannot take out their hands from the pockets of Grenadians,” he quipped.
The NNP was forced to turn to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help with a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) to grapple with a severe fiscal problem and was forced in April 2013 to default on payments to its US bondholders.
As part of the deal worked out, the government was forced to freeze the salaries of civil servants, increase property tax, widen the income tax net, and hike the fees offered by the State for a number of government services.
Quarless told the gathering that apart from adding new taxes, the NNP rulers have removed the free school books programme which was a flagship social security programme of Congress providing books to children attending various schools, and also scrap the free barrels programme at Christmas time.
He said that Congress provided the school books at a cost of $725.00 each to close to 25,000 students, but the parents have in effect traded it for a $50.00 voucher for 500 students.
The senior NDC Executive Member charged that persons who are not perceived to be supportive of NNP do not receive government’s assistance.
“You go to any department, any programme under the government, you are sidelined once you are perceived (not to be supporting the NNP),” he said.
Quarless called on the people to be prepared to go to the polls and vote out NNP but warned that the only way this can be done is if they get registered.
Although General Elections are constitutionally due in 2018, speculation is rife that Prime Minister Mitchell is thinking of calling a snap election.
Quarless said close to fifty percent of the young people who want to work, looking for work, and are willing to work between the age of 18 and 35 years cannot find a job.
“They are living on the poverty line,” he said.
With regards to the Imani Programme, Quarless said some of the young people are being used to work at the homes of some Government Ministers in St. Andrew’s.
“Right now they using the programme of the Imani to work the yards, paint the houses, and clean the surroundings of some of the ministers in this country,” he remarked.
The former Government Minister also made some passing comments on the health sector which he described as broken.
Quarless said while the NNP Administration is boasting of having a reserve of $3M in revenue collection, medication is not available at the hospital.
“How can you come and telling the Grenadian that and you don’t have medicine in the hospital? What are you doing with the money? Where (is) that reserve, where that extra money is going to?” he asked.
THE NEW TODAY has witnessed firsthand a number of patients on the Male Medical ward at the St. George’s General Hospital being told to purchase their own medication including lotion for dressing of wounds.
According to Quarless, due to the hardship placed on the people of Grenada, many have resorted to a dependency syndrome which he said is a hallmark of NNP.
“They (NNP) want you to be in a state where you are dependent on them. They like to give you hand-outs instead of a hand-up,” he said.
Quarless urged the people to become militant by engaging in doing “the hard work” now.
“We need to move from our laurels, we need to get the NNP out of office, so we need to do what is right, what is necessary,” he said.
Former NDC General Secretary, Patrick Simmons who also addressed the public meeting reiterated the existence of a state of depression in the country as alluded to by Quarless.
Simmons said when one observes what is happening in the Parish of St. Andrew’s, he can safely say that it is a forgotten parish, notwithstanding that the four Parliamentary Representatives of the Parish are Members of the Government.
“If those that we have elected to represent us in the House of Parliament was to seek our interest… we should be hearing more about agriculture, and should be hearing more about fisheries, because the foundation of the Parish of St. Andrew’s deal specifically with that of agriculture and fisheries,” he added.
Simmons said he believes that the NNP Administration under the leadership of PM Mitchell does not care about the people of St. Andrew’s, and agriculture and fishing.
“The government does not represent us here in the parish because nothing is happening for agriculture, he said.
“What he (Dr. Mitchell) cares about is so-called foreign investors,” he added.
The former Sports Minister indicated that the Parish of St. Andrew’s benefited from agriculture through some of the programmes implemented by the Tillman Thomas-led Congress Government of 2008-13.
He said the agriculture sector grew by 9.4 percent and 8.2 percent in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
According to Simmons, there was also an increase in the production of nutmegs from 1.1 million pounds to 2.2 million pounds between 2008 and 2013.
The ex-government minister also touched on the proposed University of the West Indies (UWI) Campus at Hope, St. Andrew’s.
He said Congress believes that the project would have transformed the entire Eastern District of the country.
Since the change in government three years ago, nothing has reportedly been done to continue with the construction of the campus.
Simmons said he cannot understand why the NNP Administration would shelve such a project for St. Andrew’s.
“When we take a good look at the progress of this project, we recognise that this government has done great disservice to the parish by not allowing that project to come on stream,” he told the meeting.
The Thomas-led administration had already provided the land at Hope for the construction of the campus.
Simmons said persons who have shown themselves to be “very shady characters” find themselves in the country, offering to invest in all type of business, and at the end Grenadians have to pay for the loans that were given to them.
Former Prime Minister Thomas who also graced the platform called on the people to give their support to the Nazim Burke-led NDC in the upcoming general election.
Thomas highlighted the hallmark of Congress which has governed the country on two different occasions.
He said whenever NDC is in office there is a different atmosphere in the country.
The former Prime Minister attacked the NNP style of governance by accusing it of having no respect for Institutions, adding that government is now attempting to undermine the trade union movement.
“We need a government that is going to preserve and protect our Institutions, and I’m saying to you, the National Democratic Congress under Brother Nazim Burke will be that government,” he said.
Thomas boasted that Congress’ track record shows that it has always acted on behalf of the people of Grenada, especially the people of St. Andrew’s.
“We need trustworthy people, the National Democratic Congress has trustworthy people, and we have served in the past and we are going to continue in the future,” the former Prime Minister said.
Congress lost all 15 seats in the 2013 poll to Mitchell’s NNP