Sex Predator at large!!!

The front page issue in this week’s issue of THE NEW TODAY newspaper should raise many eyebrows in the country including those in the upper echelon of the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.

Even the Prime Minister himself should be concerned that a man with a criminal track record as a sex offender of minors in the United States was able to pass through a crack in the door and land safely on our shores as part of an investment group.

What is even more alarming is the fact that persons rubbing shoulders from close up with the Prime Minister helped to facilitate his entry into the country.

Despite the fact that PM Mitchell will choose to refer to this newspaper as an “illegal” newspaper and a “scandal sheet”, THE NEW TODAY is duly registered in the Supreme Court Registry to do business in Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.

As matter of fact, this newspaper would like to bring to our government leaders the many current pitfalls so that not only the legacy of the Prime Minister but future leaders of the country and indeed the Government of Grenada will always be in tact.

It took a lady with an Internet connection to do a search and come up with the information that Mr. Erik Pedersen who operates the Winners Club on the Carenage is a registered Sex Predator from Chicago, Illinois in the United States.

Under U.S laws, persons convicted and labelled as “Sex Predators” have to be registered with the State in which they are living. Even if the person was convicted in New York and moved to Florida, he would get registered with Florida so that persons. Any simple primary school student can do a search on the Internet of the name Erik Pedersen and get all the information they need on this particular individual who might already be granted citizenship of this State.

The Pedersen affair also raises serious questions about the recent amendment to the sale of passport law, which now precludes the Government of Grenada from disclosing the names of persons granted Citizenship through the passport scheme.

It is a bad and questionable decision. Our government stands to benefit if the citizens of Grenada can help the government itself, through the use of the Internet, identify and unmask any undesirable person who might want to buy one of our passports.

Let the eyes of the people be used to protect the integrity of our leaders all in the national interest.

The information in our possession is that a law firm owned by a lawyer who is now a senior official of the government, as well as another person who is a senior member of the Cabinet are known and close associates of this so-called investor on the Carenage.

The Prime Minister would also need to investigate and find answers as to why the Immigration Department pussy-footed on the Pedersen issue after having full knowledge that he was a registered Sex Predator in the United States.

There might not be any laws on the Statute Books in Grenada to prevent these people from entering our shores.

However, our Immigration Department has the discretionary powers to grant access or deny entry of any non-national to the country.

How come the senior officers at the Department did not notify or give special instructions to its agents at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) to be on the look out for Mr. Pedersen after he left the country?

Did anyone within the hierarchy of the current government influence the Immigration Department to turn a blind eye on this declared Sex Predator when he choose to return from Trinidad?

The Prime Minister has made it known publicly that he would like to use the sweet 15-0 victory given to him by the electorate just over a year ago to address the question of his own legacy.

There is no need to return to those issues that has dogged the Prime Minister over the years like the Eric Resteiner briefcase, the crooks and conmen involved in the failed First International Bank of Grenada (FIBG), and the millions of finances wasted by the State in the E.J Miller saga at Mt. Hartman involving the so-called Ritz Carlton hotel.

Prime Minister Mitchell needs to move quickly and find answers to the Erik Pedersen issue because his political opponents, and quite rightly so, will seek to take advantage of the situation and poke fun at this particular “Investor”.

The NNP is already under pressure for the lack of foreign investors following the grand promise of “we will deliver” to win the 2013 general elections and to provide thousands of jobs to address the high unemployment situation in the country.

The likes of Nazim Burke, Joseph Andall and Randall Robinson will now seek to compare NDC’s delivery of the Sandals hotel project with the sex predator, Erik Pedersen and before him Steve Altman, the sex goods toys man who came in under a previous NNP regime.

Dr. Mitchell is no political fool and has been the most successful politician at the polls since Grenada gained its independence 40 years ago.

He will know what to do and do not expect him not to take action to ensure that his legacy is addressed for generations to come to look back at his historical contributions to this country.

 

U.S. Sex Predator on The Carenage

The 48-year old Erik Pedersen last known address in the U.S was 4002 N CASS, WESTMONT, IL 60559

The 48-year old Erik Pedersen last known address in the U.S was 4002 N CASS, WESTMONT, IL 60559

A Sex Predator from the United States has been unmasked in Grenada.

He is Erik S. Pedersen, who is listed on a website as a “registered sex offender” from the State of Illinois with a criminal track record involving a number of counts of sexual wrong-doing.

Pedersen is operating a business on the Carenage in downtown, St. George’s that was formerly occupied by the Karma nightclub and since renamed Winners Club.

THE NEW TODAY was made aware of the Sex Predator by an angry local woman who sent to this newspaper information from an internet search engine that gave details into the background of Pedersen.

The memo from the lady reads: “An alarming matter has been brought to my attention which I believe the Public should be aware of concerning the gentleman now in charge of the Night Club formally known as Karma now Winners Club.”

“Mr. Pedersen is apparently a registered sex offender in the United States with six (6) counts of aggravated sexual assault on his record. I am a very concerned citizen and mother that a person like that will be allowed to enter our country and run a club where many of our young people are sure to frequent.

“Moreover, it has been brought to my attention that his behaviour is not that of a person who has reformed being already convicted six times. I don’t know what can be done at this point, however I think that the Minister (of National Security) should be aware and steps taken to secure the well-being of our young ladies”.

Several calls made by THE NEW TODAY to a telephone number given to us went unanswered for about one hour.

Once called Karma Nightclub, the business is now using the name Winners Club on the Carenage

Once called Karma Nightclub, the business is now using the name Winners Club on the Carenage

However, when Pedersen did return a call, he was asked to confirm or deny the internet reports about him being a convicted sex predator from the United States but the Operator of the Carenage business said: “I will call you back, I am in the middle of a meeting”.

He ended the call abruptly and up to the time of going to press, the so-called American investor did not return the promised call to THE NEW TODAY.

A source close to the business outfit told our News Desk that the controversial Pedersen used the law firm known as Justis Chambers of current Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood to facilitate his business on the island.

He said that Winners Club paid US$20, 000.00 to Hood’s law firm to register the business and its operations to run a casino-style operation on the Carenage.

He spoke of the company already importing 50 “Video Gaming Machines” into the country and paying a handsome figure to the Customs Department in taxes.

“That is just the initial 50 machines that came in. There are plans to bring in much more”, said the source who asked not to be named.

He identified Pedersen as the “local man” on the ground for Winners Club but pointed to two other Americans living in the U.S as persons who are also involved in the operations of the casino-style enterprise.

The main operator is said to be a lawyer from Chicago named Alex Salerno.

According to the source, the business is not making huge profits as yet and that it was unable to pay its bills to GRENLEC and a few weeks ago the electricity company pulled the plug on Winners Club.

He said that an undisclosed sum of money allegedly came into the country from Chicago to pay GRENLEC to put back the electricity.

The official confirmed to THE NEW TODAY that the hierarchy of the Immigration Department at the Botanical Gardens at Tanteen have been aware for sometime now of the criminal record of Pedersen.

He said Immigration officers had given the so-called investor a particular time to leave Grenada and that he left the island on board a plane to neighbouring Trinidad, spent one week there and came back into the country as a visitor.

“There was really nothing that the Immigration could have done at the time. When he was leaving for Trinidad, they did not mark anything on his passport so he was free to come back to Grenada as a visitor and he did”, he added.

The source pointed out that the American then quickly got married to a local Grenadian woman that would allow him to get his citizenship and to be allowed to work and live on the island.

About two months ago, THE NEW TODAY had picked up information about an operator at Winners Club who had offered a woman from the River Road area the sum of EC$10, 000.00 to facilitate a marriage for Citizenship.

The source said that this is not the same woman who got married to Pedersen at a beach ceremony held at a local hotel in the south of the island.

He spoke of a senior member of the Cabinet of Ministers of Prime Minister Mitchell being present at the marriage ceremony and witnessed the proceedings.

THE NEW TODAY is not aware whether the Ministry of Home Affairs, headed by Prime Minister Mitchell has already granted Grenadian citizenship to Pedersen.

The source also confirmed to this newspaper that the temperamental U.S businessman had once struck a local worker who had to be restrained since the local wanted “to beat him up”.

“He is a hot head. He flares up easily and is always in some kind of a conflict with people”, he added.

Winners Club has reportedly signed a nine-year sub-lease agreement from the owners of Karma.

 

 

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Gemma Bain-Thomas is moving to the court for justice

Gemma Bain-Thomas is moving to the court for justice

Cabinet Secretary Takes Government to Court

Embattled Cabinet Secretary, Gemma Bain-Thomas has taken legal action against the one-year old Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government over the treatment meted out to her since it took office in February 2013.

Bain-Thomas has instructed her lawyer to file a lawsuit against government through the Attorney-General, Cajeton Hood and the Public Service Commission (PSC) whose newly appointed Chairman is another attorney-at-law, Derek Sylvester.

The senior civil servant has filed paper in court, through former Attorney-General, Rohan Phillip, asking the high court to threat her as someone who has been sent into retirement by the Mitchell admnistration after its 15-0 victory at the polls.

Court documents obtained by THE NEW TODAY newspaper seem to suggest that Prime Minister Mitchell was not prepared to work with her as his Cabinet Secretary from the onset and moved to have Nadica Mc Intyre preside over sittings of his Cabinet of Ministers.

Bain-Thomas, a long standing civil servant, was appointed to the post of Cabinet Secretary during the 2008-2013 rule of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) of Tillman Thomas.

Two days after the February 19, 2013 victory of NNP at the polls, former NDC political strategist, Hamlet Mark who had defected to the Mitchell camp informed her that the new Prime Minister would like to have a meeting with her and a particular Permanent Secretary.

The court documents said: “At around 8.30 a.m on February 21, 2013, I (Bain-Thomas) was informed by Mr. Hamlet Mark (the now Senior Advisor on Information to the Government at my office on the 6th Floor of the Ministerial Complex at the Botanical Gardens that the Prime Minister, Dr. Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell, will like a meeting at 1.00 p.m with both Mrs. Ann Isaac, the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Disaster Mangement and Home Affairs and I.

“The meeting was scheduled at the Honourable Prime Minister’s private residence at Happy Hill, St. George’s and present at the meeting were the Honourable Prime Minister, Ms. Nadica Mc Intyre, then Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour and presently the acting Secretary to the Cabinet, Mrs. Veda Bruno-Victor, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mrs. Ann Isac and myself”, she added

According to Bain-Thomas, she provided the new Grenadian leader during the meeting with “a written brief” on matters being handled by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and also handed him a copy of the last minutes of the meeting of the Congress Cabinet of Ministers.

“I answered all questions and queries which the Honourable Prime Minister had and then he indicated that it was a new administration and he needed to be comfortable with his senior public officials. I indicated to the Honourable Prime Minister that I respected that he may wish to have persons he was comfortable with and, as an option, I may be prepared to accept a suitable assignment for this to happen. We agreed in principle that a suitable assignment will be developed to accomodate me”, she told the court.

Bain-Thomas is contending that this did not happen over the past twelve months and she has been pushed around in different positions, as well as humiliated by PM Mitchell who accused her of leaking out confidential information.

She said: “On November 5, 2013, following the completion of a Mangement Team meeting with the Honourable Prime Minister, he asked me to remain for us to have a short meeting. I was then told by the Honourable Prime Minister that he was in receipt of a report to the effect that I was leaking information from the Management Team Meeting and as such he was recomending that I no longer attend such meetings. No evidence was provided to substantiate this accusation and the Honourable Prime Minister acknowledged that there was “no smoking gun”.

“At the said meeting with the Honourable Prime Minister, he also suggested that I can proceed on paid study leave in light of the fact that I am undertaking a programme at St. George’s University. I informed the Honourable Prime Minister that I was not eligible for the grant of study leave based on the existing study leave policy and Union agreement, but he (Dr. Mitchell) indicated that he will discuss the issue further with the Honourable Attorney General.

“I indicated to the Honourable Prime Minister at the said meeting that I am not aware of having leaked out any information, and that the situation was an uncomfortable one and maybe we should sever ties. I further indicated to the Honourable Prime Minister that in light of this development I was going to apply for some vacation leave.

“Following the said meeting with the Honourable Prime Minister I applied for 14 working days vacation leave effective November 6, 2013 because I was forced to come to the conclusion that there is an apparent lack of trust and confidence in me by the Honourable Prime Minister and as such this made it impractical, if not impossible, for me to perform the assigned duties”, she added.

THE NEW TODAY understands that June 5 has been set as the date by the court to hear the Bain-Thomas lawsuit against the Mitchell government and the PSC.

The aggrieved Cabinet Secretary is asking the court to rule in her favour and to grant her a number of relief measures:

(1). A declaration that when Her Excellency the Governor General acting in accordance with the advice of the Public Service Commission (PSC) transferred the Claimant (Bain-Thomas) with effect from February 17, 2014 “to hold another post in the Public Service in Grade M to be determined by the PSC”, Her Excellency the Governor General acted irrationally and or unreasonably and or arbitrarily and or surrendered and or abdicated her discretion, each of which circumstances rendered the transfer a contravention of section 85 (2) of the Constitution of Grenada and therefore unconstitutional, null and void, and of no effect in law.

(2). A declaration that the decision of the PSC to approve the appointment of the Claimant to the post of Executive Director of Anti-Money Laundering and Counter (Combating) Terrorism Financing Commission (AML/CTFC), Ministry of Legal Affairs with effect from February 17, 2014 was contrary to or a contravention of section 85 (2) of the Constitution of Grenada and is therefore unconstitutional, null and void, and of no effect in law.

(3). A declaration that the purported transfer of the Claimant to the post of Executive Director of AML/CTFC, Ministry of Legal Affairs and the circumstances leading up thereto was in reality a termination of the Claimant’s appointment of Secretary to the Cabinet to facilitate the reorganisation of her Department, the Office of the Prime Minister as a consequence of the new administration assuming the government as provided for by regulation 46 of the PSC Regulations, 1969.

(4). A declaration that the post of Executive Director of AML/CTFC, Ministry of Legal Affairs is not a post in the Public Service of Grenada of an equivalent status to that of the Secretary to the Cabinet of Grenada to which the Claimant may be transfered pursuant to regulation 46 (6) of the PSC Regulations, 1969, thus requiring the Claimant to retire from the Public Service of Grenada for the re-organisation of her Department, the Office of the Prime Minister within the meaning of section 84 (8) of the Constitution of Grenada.

(5). A declaration that the Claimant having been required to retire for the reorganisation of the Department, the Office of the Prime Minister, she is entitled to be paid pension and retiring benefits as if she had attained the compulsory retirement age as guaranteed by section 84 (8) of the Constitution of Grenada.

(6). Damages.

(7). Such further or other order as to His Honourable Court seems just.

(8). Costs.

Former Director of Budget, and now Manager of the Grenada Co-operative Bank Ltd, Richard Duncan brought a similar lawsuit against a previous Mitchell government in the 1995-99 period and was successful with another former Attorney-General, Dr. Francis Alexis as his lawyer.

Duncan was awarded an undisclosed amount of money in damages and is believed to be paid in excess of $4000. 00 a month by government as an early pensioner.

Denial from PM Mitchell on passport deal

Prime Minister and Minister for National Security, Dr Keith Mitchell has denied reports that a group had approached him seeking 1000 Grenadian passports at US $100, 000.00 each under its Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme.

The Prime Minister was responding to a question posed by veteran Broadcaster George Grant during last week Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing about a deal in which the passports were allegedly intended for persons in China.

Grant said that his information is that the Prime Minister was reluctant to sell passports at such a lower price since it would be under-cutting the fees charged by two other Eastern Caribbean States, Dominica and St. Kitts who are into the sale of passports scheme.

According to the journalist, the information in his possession is that Dr. Mitchell was asking the group to pay US$200,000.00 for each passport.

The Prime Minister flatly denied knowledge of the alleged deal with the Chinese connection.

“You know sometimes you members of the press get more information before some of us … because I never heard this. Honestly, I’ve never heard it. I can’t say any member of the government has heard it, but I certainly have not heard this. No one has approached me about this”, he said.

Checks made by this newspaper suggest that a deal involving the sale of 1000 Grenadian passports was being actively pursued by some persons working as part of the political directorate.

A source who spoke on condition he was not named said that this US$100 million deal would have left some persons “filthy rich”.

He spoke of one person, identified as a lawyer was getting 60% while the other 40% of the fees worked out was earmarked for the person who had the connection with the outfit that was seeking the Grenadian passports for the Chinese.

Former Finance Minister, Nazim Burke confirmed to this newspaper last week that he was approached by a group with Chinese connection who was trying to push the 2008-13 Congress government into passing legislation to sell passports.

He said the “front man” for the group was trying to assure him that the Chinese were willing to purchase “thousands of passports” from Grenada as they seek to do business outside of the Asian continent.

During the press briefing last week, PM Mitchell was at pains to point out that his one-year old government was bent on doing the CBI right.

“We have a programme that we’re going forward with (the Citizenship By Investment Programme). We (are) going to ensure that all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed before we actually start to give total implementation to the programme, and we’re doing precisely this”, he said.

The Grenadian leader told reporters that interest in the Grenada programme is “very high” and he was confident that what is projected in earnings from the 2014 Budget will be realized.

The sale of passport legislation initially made provision for the publishing of specific information every six months including the names of persons granted citizenship status but it was rescinded by a recent amendment in Parliament.

Prime Minister Mitchell told the media that government’s decision to bar the publishing of the names was merely seeking to correct an error as there is no need to expose the names.

He said the mistake was made with the drafting of the Bill as no other country publishes the identity of citizenship applicants and as such government was advised that this could be a serious hindrance to the programme and hence the amendment.

“There is no need to expose every single name out in the public. We thought it unwise to do so”, he added.

The Prime Minister assured reporters that Government will do its checks to protect the country’s image from the sale of passports.

A previous programme had to be scrapped during the 1999 to 2003 period of Dr. Mitchell’s reign when several passports ended up in the hands of several questionable persons including the imprisoned Ambassador, Eric Resteiner.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nickolas Steele whose wife, attorney-at-law Michelle Emmanuel-Steele of he law firm Veritas Legal is an agent under the programme, also chipped in, saying it is important to protect the privacy of investors.

Sources within the government have told this newspaper that Grenada has not sold any passports so far under the scheme.

 

Carriacou needs a legislative local government

The islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique need greater autonomy more than its name being included on the passport, according to local attorney-at-law Anselm Clouden.

The outspoken member of the legal profession who is from Carriacou, told THE NEW TODAY newspaper in an exclusive interview that the inclusion of the two sister isles on the national passport is one of the things currently on the agenda for the consideration by the Constitution Reform Committee.

However, Clouden was quick to point out that while it is a good initiative it is really minor since there are much more important things that should be of concern to the residents of the islands.

He said that a Legislature just like in Tobago with the House of Assembly is needed since it would provide for greater autonomy for the administration of Carriacou and Petite Martinique affairs.

“We need the ability to raise taxes for local purposes. We need an assembly with a Secretary just as Tobago where you have two or three or five elected members to the assembly. We need to be able to deal with matters of health, matters of investment,” he remarked.

“We don’t need to have the GIDC (Grenada Industrial Development Corporation) here determine what investment is more appropriate for Carriacou or the Cabinet of Ministers in the Central Government determines what investment is more appropriate for Carriacou. That must be done for Carriacounians by Carriacounians.”

Over the years, successive Grenadian government have made commitments to local government for the islands, but Clouden said this is not what Carriacou needs.

“I hear them talking about local government, but that’s rubbish. I am not for the type of local government that they envisage because they are saying whether you should have an extension of the Carriacou model in the parishes of Grenada.

“That’s utter nonsense because Carriacou and Petite Martinique is distinct islands inhabited and separated by water (from) Grenada. When you speak of local government, you trying to put that in the category of a parish, we not talking about that, we talking about being able to manage our own affairs in Carriacou and Petite Martinique.”

The city barrister stressed that subventions from the Mainland could be given to Carriacou to look after its own affairs.

“Hypothetically, so we say every year we collect 50 million and we then through our own instrumentality and local management raise another hundred million. However, there are areas that we need to be autonomous in,” Clouden said.

The attorney stressed that Carriacou will need to look at assets around its surroundings that can help provide much needed income like the “gas and oil outside the east of Carriacou.”

“We must be able to benefit from resources found within our natural borders and determine how those monies are going to be spent and determine for example if we want a free port, we want a duty free port…”, he said.

“…We must be able to do that, we don’t have to depend on the Cabinet of Ministers of Grenada to determine that Carriacou is ready for a free port, those are the issues that we must address,” he added.

Clouden was a member of the government team that negotiated the Boundary Delimitation Treaty with neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago under the 2008-2013 Tillman Thomas-led Congress administration.

Speculation is rife that there are good prospects for oil and gas resources between the two neighbouring CARICOM member states.

More sacrifices to be made

Six-panel of minister and a permanent secretary – Nickolas Steele, Emmalin Pierre, Dr. Keith Mitchell, Dr Clarice Modeste-Curwen, Oliver Joseph and Timothy Antoine took on the media last week

Six-panel of minister and a permanent secretary – Nickolas Steele, Emmalin Pierre, Dr. Keith Mitchell, Dr Clarice Modeste-Curwen, Oliver Joseph and Timothy Antoine took on the media last week

Grenadians might have to make more financial sacrifices as the one-year old Keith Mitchell-led government moves ahead with the implementation of its 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and to get the approval from the Board of Directors of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Timothy Antoine told reporters at last week’s post-Cabinet press briefing that a number of prior actions must be met by the island before the IMF Board of Directors meeting to decide on the programme being implemented by Grenada.

Antoine said that the much-talked about “letter of intent” with the fund will be signed by Grenada’s Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Mitchell close to the date set aside for the meeting of the IMF Board of Directors.

“It is the practice of the IMF that the letter of intent be signed closer to the board date and it be disclosed after the board date”, he added.

According to the top official in the Ministry of Finance, once the IMF Board has signed off on the programme then the letter of intent would be formally released.

THE IMF has already announced that it has reached a “staff level” agreement with Grenada.

Financial sources told THE NEW TODAY that the Board of Directors and not the staff members of the IMF are the ones who will agree on the programme that is to be given to Grenada to address its severe fiscal imbalance.

PS Antoine told reporters that one of the measures still to be implemented by the cash-strapped Mitchell administration is the lowering of concessions by about 50% to companies and organisations on imported goods into the country.

This move could result in consumers having to pay higher prices for goods and services.

Government also plans to reduce on concessions given to returning nationals on the grounds that everyone is expected to contribute and make sacrifices as part of the homegrown programme.

Antoine said the aim of government is to tighten up on concessions and statutory bodies have already been told that they would also be affected.

He said government is not looking to totally eliminate concessions and is trying to work with all sectors of the economy in keeping with its commitment to collect more revenue.

He said the Customs Department alone gave up in excess of $131 million in concessions in 2013.

Some of the measures already undertaken by government as part of SAP

are the lowering of the Income Tax threshold, increases in Property Tax and an increase in the Custom Service Charge.

Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Dr Keith Mitchell who was part of a panel of seven ministers addressing the media announced a positive development in the talks between government and the trade unions representing public workers on a wage freeze agreement over the next 3 years.

He said that government has received a letter from the unions asking it to put aside a previous communiqué in which two of the bodies had signed off on a document indicating their support for the programme.

The Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) did not join with the Public Workers Union (PWU) and the Grenada Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) in signing on the initial Memorandum of Understanding.

According to PM Mitchell, the effect of the actions of the three unions “is that they don’t expect to be seeking increases in salaries during the period of the Home-grown Programme, and that to me is a major plus”.

The Grenadian leader also responded to a press release issued last week by the IMF in which it described as “ambitious”, the programme being implemented by Grenada to correct its fiscal imbalances.

Some economic analysts believe that the IMF was sending a warning signal that it might be too ambitious in scope.

However, Prime Minister Mitchell said that he was proud of the statement issued by the fund which agreed to provide the island with a US$21.9 million package over the next three years.

He is confident that once agreement is signed with the IMF, other institutions such as the World Bank will provide at least US$30 million in soft loans, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) US$30 million and the European Union is committed to giving significant support in grant aid.

Dr. Mitchell reiterated that he is not enjoying the implementation of the austerity measures but there is no other alternatives available to him.

“Asking them to make further sacrifices at this time is tough for anybody particularly a politician, but we ask the question – what is the alternative?

The Prime Minister restated earlier pronouncements that if the programme is successful Grenada could realise in excess of US$100 million to be used to stabilise the country’s financial challenges.

“If we perform well, if we meet our targets in the programme …..the total amount of money (government will get) will be above US$100 million. But it depends on all of us in government, the public service that is supposed to help us to implement the programmes, the press, you providing the necessary information to the public so they can be engaged in the entire process”, he said.

He said he believes that every Grenadian who cares about Grenada and wish to see the best for citizens of the country would be extremely happy and proud of the IMF statement highlighting positive signs for fiscal stability, growth and job creation.

The final decision regarding Grenada’s Homegrown Programme hinges on a meeting by the IMF Board of Directors as the Grenadian Government continues it promise that the “letter of Intent” will soon be signed.

 

No guarantees for GIS workers

This is where GIS operates from within the Botanical Gardens

This is where GIS operates from within the Botanical Gardens

There is no guarantee from the one-year old New National Party (NNP) administration in St. George’s that some jobs might not be lost with the statutorisation of the Government Information Service (GIS) before year-end.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell who holds the portfolio of Information was asked to comment on reports that some GIS employees would have to re-apply for their jobs with the new entity that is to become a more independent body.

“…All I can assure you is we are absolutely committed not to see people lose their jobs at this particular time”, he told reporters at a post-Cabinet press briefing.

“I have said so over and over, I don’t want to supervise over that sought of initiative at this time, so I don’t expect to see much persons being asked (to go home), not being given an opportunity to continue being employed. I expect that most of them will”, he said.

Prime Minister Mitchell stated that he has not given any such instruction on the planned statutorisation of GIS but will not be surprised if others involved in the process did.

“I’m not surprised if those who are involved in the process indicated that that is an initiative that they wish to see”, he added.

Although no names were given of those forming the committee to statutorise GIS, THE NEW TODAY understands that the group is to be headed by a former Press Secretary.

Government is targeting May to change the status of GIS, now under the command of former President of the Media Workers of Grenada (MWAG) and longstanding Journalist Rawle Titus.

Plans to statutorise GIS and the Government Printery were first announced by Prime Minister Mitchell in his closing remarks on the 2014 Budget.

The Grenadian leader told Parliament his government believes that transforming GIS to an Executive Agency or statutory body would be much more efficient and functional and can realise in profits for the entity.

Dr. Mitchell announced that the State will provide financial support during the transition period for at least one year for both GIS and the Printery.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs headed by Nickolas Steele was charged with the responsibility of sourcing modern equipment for GIS.

Government sources told this newspaper that the statutorisation of GIS will be easier to accomplish than Government Printery as more monies will have to be found to pay-off the printery staff which is much larger in numbers.

The cash-strapped Mitchell government is planning to use the statutorisation approach to lower the wage bill of the civil service as part of a three-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

 

Date set for hotel construction

Grenada will start construction of a luxury hotel on the Grand Anse beach involving Egyptian billionaire, Naguib Sawiris by June or July.

According to Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Business, Nikolas Steele, all plans are in place to begin the construction by that date baring no unforeseen circumstances.

Steele said that in his recent discussions with Sawiris everything seems to be on schedule for the start of the five star hotel and that a ground-breaking ceremony signaling the start of the project is due to take place in three or four months, unless any unplanned stumbling block gets in the way.

Sawiris’ name first surfaced in Grenada in the aftermath of the landslide 15-0 victory at the polls of the New National Party (NNP) in February 2013.

The investor has reportedly purchased the beachfront property known as Silver Sands.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the Egyptian businessman was introduced to the island by a friend with strong Grenadian roots, Danny Fahkre, described as the island’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Sawiris, who is now being referred to as Grenada’s Ambassador to France, met with Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in September 2013 to discuss investment possibilities.

Over the years, a number of foreign investors have failed to keep their promises to build hotels on the island.

A recent court case identified Ambassador Peter deSavary as one who reneged on his deal with the purchaser of a villa at Mt. Cinnamon in which he promised to build a 250-room luxury hotel on Grand Anse beach as part of his sale pitch.

The court ordered the British investor to buy back the villa from the purchaser at an estimated EC$2.7 million.

TUC gives NNP Government failing grade

President of the Grenada Trades Union Council (TUC) Madonna Harford has once again taken issue with the one-year old government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell for not backing down on its stated policy to tax pensions.

Harford who was a guest on GBN’s “To The Point Program” last week Tuesday said pensioners who are now being called upon to pay personal income tax would have already paid the tax on their income while employed.

According to the female trade union leader and former Permanent Secretary, this has never happened from since colonial days under any previous administration.

“Pensions were always a non-taxable item. I am sorry to say that Dr. Mitchell will be a very unhappy man to know that his administration brought taxes on the backs of the pensioners,” she said

The TUC President indicated that most of the pensioners in Grenada are above the age of 60 years old and have to meet financial commitments for their medical bills.

“To be a pensioner and to have an ailment… it is not fair, it is not right for government to now come back and tax the pensioner,” she remarked

Harford explained that pension is not an income but money held back from an individual until that person reaches the retirement age.

The tax on pension of $3000 and above is part of the austerity measures implemented by the cash-strapped Mitchell government to correct a fiscal imbalance caused by government spending more than it is collecting each month in revenue.

The administration says it is collecting approximately EC$35 million and spending EC$50 million each month.

Of the monies collected 70% is used to pay salaries and wages and the remainder to finance the other areas of government operations.

The TUC has given support to the three Public Sector Union – Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT), Public Workers Union (PWU), and Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) – for not accepting government’s proposal for them to accept a wage freeze during the life of SAP.

Harford who was instrumental in assisting the unions in drafting a new 16-point proposal for submission to government pointed out that the local trade union movement will hold Prime Minister Mitchell accountable for his word in giving a commitment that there would be no retrenchment during the duration of the programme.

Grenadian economist and senior lecturer at the Cave Hill campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies, Dr. Brian Francis has predicted some lay-off in the public sector in Grenada as part of the addressing of the fiscal imbalance.

The Mitchell government has stated that it will primarily rely on natural attrition to reduce the size of the public service.

However, Harford does not believe this would go a long way in creating a dent in the size of the wage bill in the public service.

She believes that in this tough economic times, people who reach the mandatory retirement age of 60 may seek a further one year extension in the service.

Harford said there are still many people who would have had to renegotiate loans to undertake repairs on their houses that were damaged by hurricane Ivan almost ten years ago.

The size of the public service in Grenada is estimated at close to 7000 persons.