Following is the speech delivered by Ali Dowden who will be contesting the St. George North-west seat in the upcoming general election against Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell at a recent NDC youth rally in St. David.
The topic was “IMPACT OF GRENADA BEING BLACKLISTED ON YOUTHS”.
Good evening to all and welcome to the beautiful parish of St. David.
I am indeed honored to stand on the platform this evening amongst a cast of youths who genuinely care for this beautiful land of ours. I thank the other youth leaders for allowing me to share this platform.
I also thank the candidate for this constituency Adrian “Persuader” Thomas and our political leader Senator Nazim Burke for the confidence they have placed in youth leadership enabling us to speak to the issues confronting young people in our parishes and constituencies and the country as a whole.
There are many issues confronting the youths of Grenada on a daily basis: lack of adequate role models, unemployment, under-employment, lack of opportunities, job insecurity, inadequate housing, poor nutrition, and the list goes on and on.
Here in St. David our infrastructure is in need of development, there is an urgent need to refocus our school system and to develop our human resources. We need skills training for our youths and to remove them from the blocks. We need to put people and not concrete first.
Tonight, I want to focus our attention on a recent problem brought on by the lack of vision of our current government. That is the blacklisting of Grenada by the European Union and the implications that it can and will have for the young people of this tri-island state.
Grenada being black listed is not something good as others would want us to believe. It simply means that Grenada has been named and shamed in the world as a result of not being compliant with European Union policy requirements and with the international standards for anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism policies and standards.
This blacklisting is done in an effort to prevent and combat illegal money flowing from the European Union to Grenada and through Grenada to other parts of the world. In other words, our country is being seen by the European Union as a safe haven for tax evaders, money launderers and fraudsters who are moving monies around as citizens of Grenada.
This is a wakeup call to the government to put the necessary policies in place or suffer the consequences.
Immediately our citizenship by investment programme comes to mind. Under this programme, our passports are sold for millions of dollars to people all over the world.
We as citizens of Grenada do not know who our new brothers and sisters are. This secrecy and lack of transparency in governance has brought us to this stage.
As a youth representative, I call on the government to open up the books of the citizenship by investment programme so that we the youths can understand the full implications of this programme.
I also call on the Prime Minister to lay all outstanding reports in Parliament and publish the names of all persons to whom diplomatic and other passports were sold.
The black listing of any country is detrimental in the short, medium and long term. As a black listed country Grenada will have difficulties accessing funds from the European Union and other financial and government institutions.
But how will this black listing affect the youths of Grenada. The effects will be far reaching:
· As young people we have been shamed to know that our country is being considered in the international community as a safe place for tax evaders, money launderers, fraudsters, crooks and conmen.
We are embarrassed to know that we are not this model country our government tried to make us believe we were. The fact is that we are non- compliant with international regulations.
Our government ought to be doing better and providing a better example for we the young people of Grenada. Our government however is acting as if their shame plate break.
· As youths of this nation, we are not sure how long our country will remain blacklisted; but, for as long as we are blacklisted all grants and development funds from the EU will cease thus we are unable to benefit from projects and programmes funded by the EU.
This is the second time we have been blacklisted under this current government and history has shown that whilst they are good at getting us blacklisted they are unable to get us out of the trouble.
It was the NDC government that got us off the black list during their tenure in office in 2008 to 2013 and I am certain that they can do so again come 2018.
· To be removed from the black list we must now be compliant with all the requirements that the European Union will put in place.
· The cost of becoming compliant means there will be less monies for youth employment and youth development programmes. Already youth unemployment stands at 50 per cent and rising. Many of our youth programmes no longer exist like the Youth Parliament, Youth Ambassador programmes. Chances of them being reactivated have diminished.
There will be less monies for education, health care, agriculture, national security, community development, housing and skills training.
· As a result, poverty among the youths will be on the rise. Already 40 percent of the population is living in poverty and that includes young people. Yes, it cannot be denied. Look around and you will see that children in our villages and communities are already living in poverty and it is having negative effects on their physical health, mental health and well-being.
Poverty is already affecting our children within their homes, schools and in their neighborhoods and communities. With this blacklisting there will be less monies available for housing programmes, nutrition and food security including the school feeding programme, repairs to schools and community centers, provision of furniture and other supplies for schools, access to health care, for policing and security in our parishes all of which will adversely impact our nation’s children.
· Poorer children and teens lead to poor academic achievement, school dropout, abuse and neglect, behavioural problems, physical health problems and developmental delays.
Inadequate education contributes to the cycle of poverty by making it more difficult for low-income children to lift themselves and future generations out of poverty. The cycle of poverty will definitely continue here in Grenada.
· Poverty exposes our children to violence now and future violent behaviour placing them at greater risk of injury, death and entry into the court system and prison.
With all of these implications on the youths of this nation our government cannot and should not take the black listing lightly.
I therefore call on the government to stop the pussy footing on this issue, man up and tell the nation how you intend to immediately address this national problem.
Another immediate impact of the black listing has to do with the fiscal space or the room implement the projects and programmes that were identified for 2018 in the recently presented budget.
We were already told that these projects will be implemented if the fiscal space permits. Our blacklisting means that there is no fiscal space since the grant monies from the European Union will not be coming to us.
Additionally, local revenue collected will have to be used to get us off the black list. So, the 2018 budget died even before it was approved.
In the absence of grant monies from the EU, our government will now have to resort to borrowing or obtaining loans to finance the budget and other projects and programmes. This will result in the increase of our national debt. Already our debt is around 3 billion dollars or more.
The debt burden will rest on the shoulders of we the youths of the nation. We will have to bear the burden of the taxes being imposed by the government so as to meet our debts. Young people of this land our future is dark with this government. We need a brighter day.
As youths we all have an ambition to travel to countries outside of Grenada. We wish to travel not only to the Caribbean but also to North America and Europe. Travel restrictions go hand in hand with black listing and as youths we are concerned that visa restrictions may be placed on us.
We all felt the effect of the visa restrictions placed on us by Canada when persons who could not speak English or even knew where Grenada was showed up in Canada bearing our passports. Today it is costly and difficult to get a visa to get to Canada.
The extra scrutiny placed on us is not worth the gains passed on to us from such questionable passport selling programmes implemented in secrecy.
So, please young people do not take this black listing lightly since you too are affected. Inform yourself on why Grenada has been black listed again, of the implication on your beloved country of being blacklisted and join with us in this youth movement to struggle for better governance for the youths of this beautiful country of ours.