Former Opposition Leader Michael Baptiste has declared his intention to get back into frontline politics with another general election looming in the Spice Isle.
Baptiste who was on a radio and television programme said he has chosen to get back in the “political ring” primarily because of the collapse of the rural economy in recent years.
“My re-entry into the political ring is not about results. It is about advancing some serious ideas, putting on the table for discussion to the Grenadian people ways and how I think we can cut down on the national debt, how we can increase agriculture production, and can make Grenadians happy again,” he said.
Although he was not clear if he is returning into the fold of the Grenada United Labour Party (GULP) which he once lead, he spoke of contesting the elections “on a labour ticket.”
“When you talk about GULP the hatchets out there say well Uncle (Eric Matthew) Gairy (the Founder and former Leader) died with the party.
Well if he died with the party let him rest in peace. But the ideas have not died…”, he told the host of the programme.
In a rather sarcastic manner and taking pot shots at the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, the former Member of Parliament for St. Andrew South-west accused the regime of presiding over the death of the nation’s agriculture sector.
“… Agriculture died with the GULP, the pension, the gratuity that workers used to receive, that died too with Uncle Gairy and the GULP so then we have to find ways to bring it back,” he said.
Stating that the rural economy is heavily dependant on agriculture, Baptiste who served at one-time as Agriculture Minister in a former NNP regime, accused PM Mitchell of not placing much emphasis on agriculture.
“In all fairness to Dr. Mitchell, he has talked about diversification, but unfortunately, the… medicine he prescribed for Grenada just hasn’t worked,” he said.
According to Baptiste, the Mitchell Administration has tried telemarketing, offshore banking, call centres but when one looks at the state of Grenada and Grenville in particular, he can see that the economy has collapsed.
He believes fresh ideas are needed to have agriculture blooming once more.
The former Opposition Leader cited another major issue facing the people in rural Grenada as the closure of banks in Grenville, St. Andrew’s, which he said is due primarily to the absence of economic activities in the area.
“Grenada and the rural economy, right now is at the bowels of poverty”, he claimed.
The opposition politician believes the country has now sunk to the bottom of poverty because of the loss of the productive sector and the rural economy.
Baptiste said the NNP Government is the only administration that he knows in the history of Grenada telling people that it is doing well.
“How could you tell people they doing well when they can’t feed their families, when you have so much allocated in the budget for the vulnerable? Let’s stop talking about the vulnerable, let’s talk about enabling people… When you talk about so many people making requests for house repair, let’s stop that. Let’s give them the opportunity to build a house and repair their house… Let’s start teaching people to fish… Let’s start building Grenada with hard work, not hand-out,” he said.
Baptiste stressed that Grenada is at a stage now where people have to be told the truth that the country is bankrupt and suffering from a huge national debt, low productivity, a sense of hopelessness and with agriculture on the decline.
He said the country is “over-taxed”, cannot pay its bills, the economy has collapsed, and the young people are hopeless.
“A man’s legacy is to leave Grenada in a better state than he met it,” he remarked.
This is an obvious reference to current PM Mitchell who has been talking about the legacy that he intends to leave behind after 16 years as Prime Minister of the country.
Mitchell has often been accused of raking up a massive national debt in his time in office.
When the NNP leader first came to office in mid-1995, the island’s debt stood at EC$373 million and on leaving office in 2008 it had mounted to EC$1.8 billion.