Disrespectful behaviour!!!

Permit me to share with other Grenadians an experience I had at the hands of a non-national in our country, whose place of business was violating certain consumer protection laws. This man, who is Chinese in appearance, was the cashier at the Chinese Store on Halifax Street, in the building that was once Banfield’s Store.

I believe that many Grenadians have walked into stores, picked up items and found that they are unable to read the labels, because it is in a language other than English. This was my experience at the Chinese Store on Saturday, May 25th 2019, as I tried to find myself an item of clothing.

I am strong in my conviction that we Grenadians have a role to play in ensuring that certain standards and regulations are adhered to, so fueled by this conviction, I approached the cashier and pointed out to him that I was unable to determine the size of the garments, because the labelling was all in Chinese.

I added that according to the laws of Grenada, imported goods are to be labelled in English. At this he told me that he could not understand what I was saying. I responded by suggesting that he might understand if I called in the Ministry of Trade for him. At this he became abusive and disrespectful to me, raising his voice and saying, “You crazy, you crazy. Go, go!” as if to chase me out of the store.

Grenadians are a hospitable people and we welcome most all races, religions, nationalities who come to our land. We however expect that those who choose to live and do business here, will abide by the laws of our country and show respect to the people of Grenada who have allowed them to be here and who support their businesses.

Grenadians, these laws are in place for our benefit. Let us be on the look-out for those who are operating in contravention of our laws, and call them out. Let us be involved in protecting our rights. When we do this, they will be less likely to take such liberties.

I have already brought this matter to the attention of the Department of Trade and was advised that they will look into it. I look forward to walking into stores and being able to read all labels.

Meryl Marryshow

NDC delegation meets with Baroness Scotland

An NDC delegation comprising of the Interim Political Leader, Joseph Andall, General Secretary, Glen Noel and Senator Kerryne James held talks on May 24 with Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland.

NDC delegation meets with Baroness Scotland

The NDC team raised concerns about manipulation of the Parliamentary Elections Office by the ruling party, and government’s failure to get the Governor General to assent to the 2016 amendments that were made to the Representation of the People Act.

The issue of censorship, intimidation and control of the press was also discussed, with specific references to the replacement of Lew Smith with Katisha Williams, a government senator, as host of GBN’s Beyond the Headlines, the appointment of an NNP activist to head the News Department of a private media entity and the refusal of several newspapers to publish the NDC’s Heartbeat column, even as they bring the NNP Perspective.

NDC acknowledged the passing of progressive environmental legislation, but lamented government’s actions which pose direct and immediate threats to the local environment.

Sen. James highlighted concerns about the poor state of healthcare in general, and mental health in particular.

She addressed the need for better training and awareness regarding the handling of sexual abuse and harassment, as well as a reorientation of the education system so that young people can be better able to take advantage of existing opportunities.

Baroness Scotland commended the NDC for allocating the two senate seats offered by the Governor General to two youths.

The Secretary General spoke of several Commonwealth programmes and initiatives that young Grenadians can benefit from.

She was also made aware of the high levels of victimisation meted out by the NNP administration to young people who support or are members of the NDC.

Both delegations agreed that there should be follow up actions on the matters raised by Congress.

DECISION DAY SOON FOR NOTORIOUS “OSSIE”

The once-feared “Ossie” will know in a matter of days whether a Jury has found him guilty or innocent of the 2015 robbery of the Patel family at their home in Belmont

 

Aldin ‘Ossie’ Phillip – claims he was not a part of the robbery team

The State last week Friday called its eighth and final witness in the case brought against the once feared gangster Aldin ‘Ossie’ Phillip, who is charged with Robbery with Violence and Possession of an offensive weapon in connection to the stealing of EC$16, 000 with the use of firearm from a St. George’s businessman Mahindra Patel, his wife and son on December 22, 2015.

High court judge, Justice Paula Gilford was on Friday expected to sum up the evidence before sending the 9-member jury panel out of court to deliberate on the verdict to be handed down on the convicted felon.

Both the State Prosecutor, Senior Crown Counsel, Howard Pinnock and veteran Defense attorney, Anselm Clouden were expected on Thursday to make their final presentations to the mixed jury sitting at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court.

It was the Crown’s case during the trial that the notorious Phillip, along with four (4) other men, all from St. George’s, ranging between ages of 18 and 40 were responsible for a spate of robberies on the island, most of which occurred between November 2015 and January 1, 2016.

Phillip, who lived at Grand Anse, St. George’s, along with Donnel Bonaparte of Mt. Rush and Isa Charles of Woburn, were slapped with robbery with violence, and gun related charges in connection to the alleged attack at the family’s home at Belmont, St. George, where they operated a small business.

The three suspects were jointly charged for stealing from the family, three (3) cellular phones valued $1,148.10, cash amounting to EC$15,000.00, and a coin box containing EC$160.00.

All three men have been on remand since their arrest for the crimes in 2015.

Bonaparte and Charles pleaded guilty to the offence before female high court judge, Justice Gilford in the January assizes and were ordered to spend the next 15 years of their lives behind bars at the Richmond Hill Prison for their crimes.

However, Ossie decided to go to trial and according to informed sources, he did not feel comfortable with his matter being tried before the Guyanese-born judge, in light of the stiff sentences handed down on Bonaparte and Charles.

Ossie, who is believed to be the mastermind behind a string of well orchestrated robberies on the island occurring during November 2015 and January 2016, had only been released from prison for just about six (6) months after serving a 10-year jail sentence for attempted murder, burglary, robbery and robbery with violence.

In 2011, Phillip received a 10-year jail sentence from Madam Justice Clare Henry at a high court sitting after he launched an attack on the home of the Antoine family in St. Andrew, wearing a mask and armed with a gun on February 23, 2009, and got away with EC $300.00 and US $2.00.

In the process, a member of the family, Reginald Charles was shot three times resulting in him spending 15 days in hospital.

Police also suspect that Phillip was involved in several other criminal activities on the island over the years but lacked sufficient evidence to slap charges on him.

High court judge, Justice Paula Gilford

The accused who is originally from St. Patrick spent most of his early childhood in Trinidad but returned home in the past 15 years after many encounters with the law in the neighbouring island, which saw him also spending prison time there.

Police had apprehended a third man, Sylvan Thomas, in connection to the Patel family robbery and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), managed to strike a deal with him to testify against Phillip as a key witness for the Crown.

Among the witnesses called to give evidence in the case led by Senior Crown Counsel, Howard Pinnock, was Patel’s son, who provided the court with a detailed account of the family’s encounter with the group of intruders who were all wearing stocking masks, and each carrying a gun at their Belmont home.

Ossie, who retained the services of seasoned criminal defense Attorney-at-Law Anselm Clouden to assist with his defense, was allowed to stand in the prisoner’s dock to address the court last week Friday.

He lashed out at Thomas, who he charged should be the one standing trial for the offences and not him because he is the one who “played all the roles in the crime.”

He referred to Thomas as the one responsible for the Patel family robbery, stating that he is not a credible witness because he is a felon and a liar, who had done time in the United States for sex-related offences and Burglary.

Ossie also alleged that there were several inconsistencies in the statements presented to the court against him during the trial.

The notorious gangster claimed that certain evidence in the case had been tampered with and maintained his innocence of the charges slapped on him.

He called for a fair trial and also made it clear that he is ready to face whatever penalty is handed down to him.

“All I am asking for is a fair trial…” he told the court.

If convicted, Ossie faces a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment for the charge of Robbery with Violence and a lesser penalty for Possession of a firearm.

Attorney Hood points fingers at Keith Mitchell-led government

Former Attorney-General Cajeton Hood has said that a major part of the overall sum of the national debt has to do with the acquisition of lands from Grenadians by the Government of Grenada and not paying compensation.

Former Attorney General Cajeton Hood defends his integrity and legal competence

Hood, who served as principal legal adviser to the Keith Mitchell Government during the period 2013 – 2017, made this statement during last weekend’s, ‘Sunday with George Grant’ programme.

According to the attorney, he was forced to put out a letter last week in response to statements made by Prime Minister Mitchell at a meeting with staffers at the Ministry of Legal Affairs, in which he claimed that newly appointed Attorney-General, Guyana-born Darshan Ramdhani will give “far superior” legal advice than those who recently occupied the top positions.

Less than a week later, the much-talked about Ramdhani suffered a loss on behalf of the State in a case involving GRENLEC.

PM Mitchell’s onslaught was seen as a direct attack on both Hood and former Solicitor-General, Dwight Horsford who is now serving as Attorney-General in the British dependency of Anguilla.

According to Hood, he was duty bound to respond and “immediately reacted taking exception not only on behalf of myself personally but (also) on behalf of a number of lawyers who I would have worked with in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, who would have worked very hard (and) who gave a lot of their private time to advance the work of this nation…who gave committed service.”

He pointed out that he was surprised at the statement made by PM Mitchell that if competent legal advice was given the government would not have had to pay the large sums as awarded by the court in judgement debts.

He said: “When the issue of the debt and the part of the debt based on judgments came up and I read the comments of the Prime Minister, I was taken aback (because) I could not believe what was being said. The mere fact that one would speak in public and try to blame lawyers in Legal Affairs for the Government of Grenada being in several millions of dollars in debt based on court awarded sums, it is ludicrous”.

One of the major debts is believed to be in excess of EC$20 million to the construction firm known as Dipcon arising from the breach of contract by Works Minister Gregory Bowen within days of the New National Party (NNP) forming the government after the 1995 general elections.

Attorney Hood spoke of having to engage with female Queen’s Counsel Celia Clyne-Edwards regarding a debt for one of the islands that the government acquired and had given to an investor for development without compensating the original owners.

He recalled raising the issue of the debts arising from court decisions with former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Timothy Antoine who is now serving as Governor of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).

PM Mitchell – not happy with the work of Legal Affairs in the 2013-18 period

“…We came up with a breakdown of all of these payments that are outstanding to citizens and in his (Antoine) mind, it would have been a good thing to pay these people off because monies would be going back into the economy. That was his (Antoine’s) idea.” he said.

“….Furthermore, the debts are acquiring about a 6% interest, so as we discussed it made good sense to take a loan at a lower interest and pay-off the debt and with the assistance of my staff we wrote every single lawyer who on behalf of their clients were owed debts by the Government of Grenada,” he added.

In August last year, the Richard Duncan-led Fiscal Responsibility Oversight Committee (FROC) put the national debt in the region of EC$2.4 billion.

The 2019 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure indicated under the section Public Debt that government owes judgment claims of $57.3 million as of 2018.

The Mitchell-led government announced in the budget that it will begin making payments on the judgment claims at the end of February.

However, THE NEW TOADY has not been able to ascertain how much of the monies have actually been paid out to these debtors.

Attorney Hood said, while serving as Attorney General he engaged several attorneys who had debts owing to their clients by the Government of Grenada.

“I tried asking them if they would forgive some of the interests on the debt…I, with the assistance of my officers, we wrote every single lawyer, who on behalf of their client was owed debt by the Government of Grenada.

So what more could we have done?

According to Hood, he has been left with no choice since the utterances of PM Mitchell to defend his integrity and the integrity of “the other persons who worked with me in the Ministry of Legal Affairs (and) that’s the basis on which I responded”.

“It was not an attack on anybody but an attempt to defend myself”, he remarked.
Attorney Hood, who sought to maintain lawyer/client confidentiality in serving as the principal legal advisor to government, “if the Prime Minister took issue with any judgment of the court while I was Attorney General, he needs to say so and if he allow me, I can tell the nation what advice was given from the Ministry of Legal Affairs on those matters.”

Both Hood and Prime Minister Mitchell are from the St. George North-west constituency.

The attorney said that Dr. Mitchell approached him on three occasions after the 2013 general elections to accept the post of Chief Legal Advisor to the Cabinet of Ministers.

More dollars for airport workers

Workers at the state-controlled Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) are to benefit financially from a Collective Agreement signed on their behalf between Management and their bargaining unit, the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union (GTAWU).

Anya Chow Chung – Chairperson of Airport Authority

The agreement, signed last Wednesday at the Ministry of Labour Conference Room at the Ministerial Complex, covers the period 2017 to 2020 and sees employees receiving payment for impeccable attendance on the job.

It was jointly signed by head of the Board of Directors for GAA, Anya Chow Chung and President General of the union, Senator Andre Lewis.

In brief remarks at the ceremony, the female Airport Authority boss described the attendance incentive as one that will see workers get a bonus at the beginning of January each year for their performance.

She said: “On January of each year, employees are paid an incentive bonus based on their attendance record. So where you have a 100% attendance, you get a week’s pay as an incentive bonus. One day absent, you would get six days, and it scale as it goes down – so two days absent, you get five days and so on and so forth. I think that is something that really speaks towards engendering productivity and efficiency in the work place”.

Under the agreement signed, Chow Chung said that the working hours for employees at the airport have been reduced by half-an-hour moving from 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m. to 8:00-4:00 p.m.

“It is really a good day. We are here to sign off on industrial agreement for the period 2017/2020. I think all decisions were made in the best interest of the employees of the Grenada Airports Authority, and so I offer my appreciation to all those who gave of their time and efforts in the negotiation process and my congratulations and thanks to all parties concerned,” she remarked.
Sen. Lewis attributed the success of the signed agreement to the respect shown to the other side by GAA.

“We all know certainly from the union side and the authority side, we are able to come to this final mutual agreement, but obviously there were challenges along the road, and challenges once handled in a mature way by people and organisations that are well meaning, must result in the betterment of all the organisations concerned.

“This collective agreement with the changes and amendments that are being made, apart from salary, the salary is important – it’s a clear reflection of the mindset of the two partners because we see the Airport Authority as a partner.

“…We are representing the interest of the workers, but if the airport does not perform well, we would not be in a position to get this sort of increases that we have been able to secure. So, we want to again express our heartfelt thanks to the airport and please convey to the board our deepest appreciation. Yes, we know that there were some turbulence at sometime but we have been able to ride the boat.

Over the years, TAWU has emerged as the most dominant union among white collar workers on the island.

Imanis graduate from SGU with Bachelor’s Degrees

Plaques of congratulations were handed out to 11 Imani sponsored graduates from the St. George’s University by the Ministry of Youth, as they were recognised for their successful attainment of Bachelor’s Degrees in various programmes.

Graduates and Ministry of Youth officials in photo op

The group, which consisted of mainly females, gathered at the Ministerial Complex Conference Room last Tuesday to be officially acknowledged by Minister within the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Culture & the Arts, with responsibility for Youth Development, Kate Lewis.

Five of the 11 received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, two in Biology, two in Information Technology, one in International Business and Tourism Hospitality Management, and one in Management.

Two of the graduates relayed their journey up to the point of graduation and gave thanks to the Imani Programme for the assistance.

Holder of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Lindy Jackasal, said the Imani Programme has made her dream come true as Nursing has always been a career goal.

“Growing up, I had four areas in my life which I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to be a Nurse, a Gynecologist, a Teacher and if that doesn’t work out an Air Hostess. In 2015, when I was still enrolled in the Imani Programme…I got placed as an Assistant Teacher at St. Joseph’s Convent Grenville, which is my alma mater and the experience that I had there was really amazing. After my one year of being at St. Joseph’s Convent Grenville, I heard that St. George’s University was taking (persons to do) nursing, so without a doubt, I signed up…and I got accepted.

“… I want to encourage other persons in the Imani Programme who (are) wishing to further their studies…nothing comes easy and in my story … the Imani Programme helped me, helped to finance my studies at SGU…I put in the work. So, persons who have the dreams out there, don’t let that dream just be inside you, act on that dream.

“I am now a nurse and I am very happy and I am excited to work under the Ministry of Health, and to give back to my country because my country gave a lot to me and I really appreciate that a lot.

Tarah Nicholas, who is now the holder of a Bachelor Degree in Management, said she owes it all to the Imani Programme.

“It was two months after the 2013 general election when the NNP government introduced the new Imani Programme. I was placed at the Rex Resort – after a year and a half at the Rex resort I decided it was time to seek information in applying for a Bachelor’s Programme.

“I gathered the information and took the necessary steps to get there. Luckily I was selected and thank God the little funds I saved while on job training assisted me to cover only half of the tuition for the semester, not knowing where the other will come from.

“Prior to the commencement of my bachelor programme I wrote a resignation letter to the Imani explaining my decision. I was later contacted and a meeting was held, informing me that I will not be removed from the programme and they will continue to provide the stipend, since I indicated that I was going to pursue my studies.

“… With that being said, I was able to pay out the outstanding balance of my tuition. On completing my first semester at SGU, I applied for the government scholarship, was not lucky on first attempt, but tried a second time and I was luckily awarded a full time scholarship to the St. George’s University.

“I take the opportunity to thank the Government of Grenada and the Imani Programme for assisting me tremendously throughout the four years of studies at SGU and for making this dream goal a reality; without your help this would not have been possible.

Minister in the Ministry of Youth with responsibility for Youth Development, Kate Lewis, who is also a graduate herself, with a Master’s in International Business from St. George’s University, said this is testament that the Imani Programme works for the benefit of young people.

The minister said: “ I am happy, our investment in the young people of this country is a worthwhile investment and the Government of Grenada will continue to invest in the future of our young people because we believe that no investment is ever too much, because the young people of our country, they are the future. And we have to ensure that they are properly equipped to take up the job opportunities that are out there waiting for them.

“…I am happy that the Imani Programme continues to speak volumes in the lives of our young people. It’s a wonderful opportunity, the programme is dynamic and I want to encourage those of you, as part of the programme as trainees, you have to seek out the opportunities, you have to help elevate yourselves”, she remarked.

A release from the Ministry of Youth indicated that a total of 18 persons are currently enrolled at SGU with others to get an opportunity in 2020, 16 in 2021, and 17 in 2022.

Dead fish floating in the River

GRENADA’S Health and Environment Department is investigating yet another fish kill in one of the rivers in St George’s but the head of that department has said it may not be a chemical factor.

Dead fish in the St John’s River

The dead fishes have been turning up in a section of the St John’s River which passes through the village of River Road and residents have undertaken a clean-up, removing and burying them.

THE NEW TODAY was called in to report on the situation and villagers speculated that the likely cause is the dumping of harmful waste.

When contacted, Chief Environment Officer Andre Worme said he would send a team to investigate, since our telephone call was the first time that his department had been informed of the problem.

Worme said the Waste Management Act, while it focuses heavily on solid waste, does have some regulations which prohibit the dumping of certain chemicals and other effluents into the country’s waterways.

However he said the Act needs strengthening.

He spoke of the need for stronger policies relating to the disposal of industrial waste, particularly with the number of small manufacturers setting up shop on the island.

Errol Thomas, one of the workers responsible for maintenance of the River Road section of the St John’s, told the newspaper that “this is not a first time thing”.

Errol Thomas – is concerned about dead fish in the St John’s River

He stated that fishes have been dying in the river for months and that Health Minister Nickolas Steele had “checked on it” but the problem has arisen again.

He said once the fishes began dying again he informed his supervisor, commonly known as Madame Ras and she had said she would contact the Department of the Environment.

But last week she told this newspaper she was unaware of the magnitude of the problem and had only facilitated some villagers who needed buckets to collect the fish for use.

She confirmed that Environment officials had not been contacted.

She suggested that the dead fishes were concentrated in an area about a mile upstream from the river mouth, and may have ventured out of the salt water and could not survive in the river water.

This latest incident has raised speculation that caustic soda, a cleaning agent, may be responsible for killing such a large amount of fish.

The Grenada Bottling Company, one of the production companies in the area that uses the cleaning agent was also contacted by this newspaper.

Operations Manager Chris Warner said the Bottling Company, which holds the local franchise for Coca Cola, operates according to the parent company’s standards.

He said the company operates a waste water treatment plant as required by the parent company and that the cleaning agent is recycled.

Worme did say  however that a preliminary investigation indicated that the fish kill appeared to be much further downstream and a chemical factor may not be the cause, since all aquatic life would have been affected.

Sewer waste which can reduce oxygen levels

He said, “from general observation we recognise that there is live aquatic organisms”, referring to the areas close to the company’s bottling plant.

However he did say that in the past his department has found concentrations of caustic soda in the river, despite the recycling programme.

While the environmental investigation remains incomplete, Worme said the likely cause is biological and may be related to low oxygen levels in the river.

Low oxygen levels, he said, can be as a result of organic let-off such as sewerage which can remove a large amount of oxygen from the water.

There is also the issue of hospital and medical waste as well as sewer waste.

Around the time that the dead fish begun turning up in an area just down river from the bridge leading to the Mt Gay Hospital, maintenance workers had cleared drains, which had been blocked for several months, allowing poorly treated sewer water from a NAWASA managed plant, to gush into the St John’s River.

A previous fish kill, a few years ago, had been traced back to waste from the nearby Mt Gay Hospital.

Worme said fish migrating upstream to spawn would be more susceptible to low oxygen level and may account for the selective nature of the fish kill.

Deep Concern

For some time now I have been trying to ascertain when last was an annual shareholders meeting of Cable & Wireless (Gda) Ltd held, only to note that one was held on February 28th ,2014 , which raises the question – was that the last annual shareholders meeting?

If yes, why is it that the directors of the company have not called a meeting in compliance with the 1994 Companies Act 35 # 107 which states: the directors of a company (a) shall call an annual meeting of shareholders not later than 18 months after the company comes into existence, and subsequently not later than 5 months after holding the last preceding annual meeting ; and (b) may at any time call a special meeting of shareholders .

To my mind a grave injustice in meted out particularly to the few minor shareholders, who according to the 2013 /14 report owns only 992,767 or 2.5 %, who in no way can compel the directors to call such a meeting. Is it for that reason they have been treating the minority shareholders with such contempt? Does any morality exist there?

If yes, then they are obligated to call a shareholders’ meeting. The other shareholders are: Cable &Wireless (W.I) Ltd 28, 000,000 or 70 % and Government of Grenada 11,007,233 or 27.5 %.

Having written to Mr. James Pitt , Manager of the company by letters of March 4th and April 30th, 2019 enquiring when a shareholders meeting will be held and not having received a reply and having noticed in the local newspapers that a number of companies : Grenada Breweries Ltd; Jonas Browne (G’da) Ltd; Republic Bank (Gda) Ltd, Grenada Co-operative Bank Ltd, RBTT Bank Grenada Ltd, Grenada Electricity Service Ltd gave notice and held meetings , I am wondering if shareholders of Cable & Wireless (Gda) Ltd will suffer the same faith as depositors/shareholders of CapBank, BICO and CLICO .

Simeon Green

Mixed signals from IMF

The Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on the Keith Mitchell-led government in Grenada to take effective steps to reduce the high port charges on the St. George’s Pier.

The move could see the administration getting locked in a bitter battle with the powerful Seamen & Waterfront Workers Union (SWWU) which is known to be supportive of Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP).

Fingers are often pointed at SWWU as primarily responsible for the high cost of doing business on the Pier due to the huge sums paid to stevedores for loading and off-loading goods.

In its May 20 report on Grenada, the IMF said that further steps are needed by the authorities in Grenada “to reduce high port charges and other export/import costs and dismantle monopolies on export/import of certain products”.

The report also pointed to the need for government to implement policies to address the national debt and for sustainable employment in the country.

As a public service, THE NEW TODAY reproduces in full the latest IMF bulletin on Grenada:

Growth has remained strong, reflecting external tailwinds and the fruits of past reforms. The outlook is promising, but is subject to downside risks. The focus of policy should shift toward making growth more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive.

Fiscal policy should balance further progress in debt reduction against a gradual use of well-earned fiscal space to close the country’s infrastructure and resilience gaps, in tandem with capacity and efficiency improvements to bolster the impact on growth.

Policies to enhance resilience to climate change and natural disasters should be fully integrated into a credible medium-term fiscal framework. Continued progress in financial sector oversight, structural reforms, economic governance, and data provision is necessary to support and enhance sustainable growth.

Developments and outlook

The Grenadian economy continues to grow robustly. GDP expanded by 4¼ percent in 2018, driven by strong activity in construction and tourism. Unemployment has been falling, but remains high at 21.7 percent as of mid-2018. Inflation has remained low.

After trending down for several years, bank credit growth has turned positive with continued improvements in asset quality, while lending by credit unions has continued to expand rapidly. The external current account deficit likely narrowed in 2018 due to strong tourism receipts, but remains elevated at around 11 percent of GDP.

Robust FDI flows, including from the citizenship-by-investment (CBI) program, are financing the external deficit while supporting economic growth.

Adherence to the fiscal responsibility framework has enabled further debt reduction.

The key targets under the Fiscal Responsibility Law (FRL) are estimated to have been met. The fiscal surplus increased further in 2018, reflecting a combination of strong revenues and the FRL-mandated expenditure restraint.

The public wage bill has been contained by the attrition policy, although several strategic exemptions and relaxations have recently been introduced to this policy. Low execution of grant financing and institutional bottlenecks in project execution combined to keep capital outlays subdued at 2¾ percent of GDP.

Central government debt fell from 70 to 63½ percent of GDP in 2018, but arrears to certain bilateral creditors remain to be regularised.

This measure of debt excludes non-guaranteed debt of public enterprises of around 3.4 percent of GDP and the debt to Petrocaribe (some 11½ percent of GDP).

The improved debt situation has helped lower interest rates and boost access to concessional financing. Robust CBI inflows have helped channel sizable resources to the contingency fund that could be used for mitigating the effects of natural disasters.

Economic prospects are promising, but risks are tilted to the downside.

• Growth is set to remain solid in 2019, but is projected to ease somewhat over the medium-term, consistent with a waning of FDI-driven construction. The fiscal position is projected to loosen in line with the FRL’s provisions that take effect after public debt falls below 55 percent of GDP, and should provide some support to the economy.

• External risks are mainly on the downside, and are centered on prospects for U.S. growth and global financial conditions. Domestic risks are two-way. On the one hand, the use of the fiscal space for productive investment could improve growth. On the other hand, boosting public spending, without reforms aimed at improving efficiency and productivity, could undermine long-term growth.
Other risks include the loss of corresponding banking relationships, damaging natural disasters, pension settlements or other spending that could breach the FRL, and regional risks due to spillovers from Venezuela.

Fiscal policy

The FRL has been successful in guiding fiscal policy to date, but its next phase of implementation should strike a proper balance between fiscal prudence and much-needed increases in productive spending.

The government’s 3-year medium-term fiscal framework charts a policy course of continued large primary surpluses through 2021. However, once the public debt ratio reaches 55 percent of GDP, the FRL allows scope for recalibrating the primary balance target to stabilise debt at that level.

An effective and prudent use of fiscal space could maximise the economy’s productive potential and resilience to shocks. However, if the fiscal space is used to finance unproductive spending, it could fuel debt sustainability concerns.

Grenada’s infrastructure and resilience gaps are key priorities that need to be addressed with the increased resource envelope

Public capital spending has been particularly low in recent years. The authorities’ assessments of infrastructure and maintenance needs call for substantially raising investment spending. In addition, significant advances are being made in understanding Grenada’s resilience-building needs and benefits, in the context of large expected losses from climate change.

The ongoing climate change policy assessment (CCPA) has documented progress to date and laid out a comprehensive approach to address climate risks. It has identified the need for additional resilience-related investment of up to 3 percent of GDP annually over the next 10 years, some of which will need to be financed by domestic resource mobilisation to back-stop and catalyse external concessional financing.

A scaling-up of public productive spending should have a substantial payoff for sustained growth, if it is supported by capacity improvements

The outcomes would crucially depend on specific policies and absorptive capacity improvements in public spending. Pro-actively pursuing capacity improvements (including in hiring and training professional staff and project prioritisation and screening) in parallel with using the fiscal space to address infrastructure and resilience-building objectives would improve the quality and resilience of the public capital stock.

Staff analysis indicates a substantial payoff of this investment for economic growth, both due to higher production and reduced losses from natural disaster and climate change events. Such investment spending could be supported by moderate increases in essential current spending and well-targeted increases in expenditures for social protection.

Moderate changes to the FRL and other elements of the fiscal framework could facilitate high-quality spending while further improving debt sustainability

First, targeting a safer debt level of below the FRL’s current ceiling (55 percent of GDP) and shifting to a broader coverage of public debt (to include non-guaranteed SOE debt) would support a proper balance between fiscal prudence and upscaling productive spending.

Second, the analysis of fiscal risks in budget documents should be strengthened – notably to analyse and internalise fully the impact of natural disasters, climate change, and long-term aging – along with a comprehensive assessment of public enterprises, public-private partnerships, and other contingent liabilities.

Third, the primary expenditure rule could be re-framed to simplify its operation and facilitate resilience-building objectives. However, prior to making any changes to the fiscal rule, significant enhancements should be made to boost capacity to implement resilience-related spending and improve the classification criteria and institutional accountability framework.

The provisions of the medium-term debt management strategy that public capital spending be financed only from concessional sources should be reinforced. The changes to the FRL should be carefully prepared to allow sufficient time for fully-consistent implementation.

Extensive “second-generation” reforms should anchor improvements in the spending structure and implementation capacity in the following areas

• Public service and wage bill. The pace of implementation of the 2017-19 Public Management Reform Strategy has been slower than anticipated. Functional reviews, development of performance
indicators, and payroll audits of ministries should be accelerated.

Given the delays in these reforms, prudent wage setting parameters should be agreed for the new 2020-22 bargaining cycle.

• Public investment management. The new institutional structure for coordinating capital projects that was created in early-2019 has yet to be tested. In any case, planning and implementation of public investment projects should be improved across the board, through better screening and design of projects, enhanced project management capacity, fuller information on inventory and valuation of public assets, continued improvements in public procurement, and more rigorous project prioritisation criteria.

• Public enterprises. The oversight committee for advising SOE
operations should be re-activated and progress in adjusting tariffs to reflect cost recovery and investment needs should be followed through in the water sector and implemented in other sectors.

• Social assistance. Social protection programs should be strengthened and consolidated around the Support for Education, Empowerment, and Development (SEED) program.

• Pensions. The immediate costs of public pensions and health care initiatives should be contained and spillovers for increases in future spending limited through parametric reforms. The reforms to raise social security contribution rates initially from 9 to 11 percent and gradually increase general retirement age from 60 to 65 should be followed through as part of a package of measures to contain the costs of aging as well as insure the viability of the national insurance scheme and sustainability of pension benefits.

Other policies

Financial sector policies need to monitor potential imbalances to solidify the sector’s contribution to growth. In the banking sector, the impact on competition and corresponding banking relationships from the envisaged sale of Scotiabank should be analysed and monitored.

The rapid expansion of lending by credit unions should be matched by strengthening their oversight, data provision, and capital buffers.

Growing property markets and proliferation of non-bank financial intermediaries raise the need for a full assessment of risks, including by monitoring systemic financial institutions, analysing interconnectedness, and collecting better property market data.

New accounting (IFRS9) and bank valuation and provisioning standards call for careful implementation strategies. The capacity of GARFIN and its coordination with ECCB and ECCU’s peer regulators should be further strengthened, with a view to continually harmonising oversight of non-banks. This is particularly important for the insurance sector, which has extensive cross-border linkages.

Strict compliance with AML/CFT standards and due diligence requirements should help to forcefully pre-empt any related concerns, as well as risks to correspondent banking relationships.

Improving the business environment and labor market institutions should help make private sector growth more broad-based, resilient, and job-intensive

Grenada’s Doing Business rankings continue to denote sizable gaps in the processing of construction permits, property and land registration, trading across borders, and investor protection. Ongoing efforts to close gaps through digitalisation of procedures should be intensified.

Further steps are needed, notably to reduce high port charges and other export/import costs and dismantle monopolies on export/import of certain products. Recent progress in promoting links between tourism and other sectors (agriculture) should be further enhanced and expanded by improving conditions for medical, sports, and educational tourism.

The operationalisation of the public utilities regulatory commission should be used as an opportunity to unlock investment in renewables.

Improved labour market institutions are needed to match job opportunities with Grenada’s still-young labour force.

Upgrading education, existing training programs, and employment matching services (through well-functioning central depository of labour market data) should help tap this potential.

Grenada could benefit from integrated strategies that leverage further improvements in operational planning, statistics, governance, and implementation capacity

Grenada’s forthcoming 2020-35 development plan should be supported by successor medium-term plans to operationalise progress, secure financing, and ensure implementation.

A national Disaster Resilience Strategy could target comprehensive improvements in resilient infrastructure, financial protection, and post-disaster response. The strategy could act as a platform for
coordinated action and support from development partners.

All these plans should rely on the development of strong monitoring and evaluation systems and improved statistics, with the overdue update of social data being essential to the design of inclusive
growth policies. These steps require improved economic governance and better coordination between all government’s agencies.

St. David man pleads not guilty to molesting 11-year old girl

Michael Christopher, the 47-year-old salesman accused of sexually molesting an 11-year-old girl in December 2017, pleaded not guilty to four (4) related charges before Justice Paula Gilford at the St. George’s No. 1 High Court last week Friday (May 24).

The Maulty, St. David resident, who retained the services of Attorney-at-Law, Sherrine Francis-Hackett to assist him, pleaded not guilty to attempting to have sexual intercourse with the minor, indecent assault, sexual assault and sexual assault by unlawfully penetrating the genital of the minor with his fingers.

He faces a total of 10 related charges, six (6) for which he entered not guilty pleas to in the previous Assizes.

The incidents reportedly occurred between the 1st and 31st days of December 2017, in the villages of Maulty and Paraclete in the parish of St. Andrew, respectively.

Unconfirmed reports are that at the time of the alleged incidents, the accused child molester was involved in a romantic relationship with the mother of the 11-year-old girl.

Due to the sensitive nature of the case, THE NEW TODAY will not reveal the identity of the young girl or give the facts of the case.

No trial date has been set, however, the matter was case managed and the Guyanese-born female judge ordered that all submissions and applications be made before the matter comes up for review on June 7.

If convicted of the crimes, Christopher faces a maximum penalty not exceeding 10 years for indecent assault, not exceeding 14 years for sexual assault, not exceeding 20 years for attempt to have sexual intercourse with a person under 13.