Fiscal Responsibility Bill to take effect this year

Leader of Government Business in the Lower House of Parliament, Gregory Bowen has said that the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, which is expected to take effect sometime this year, must be adhered to beyond the completion of the three-year Structural Adjustment Programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order for government to continue properly managing the country’s debt.

His comment was made while introducing a new amendment to the Bill during a recent sitting of the house held at the Grenada Trade Centre at Grand Anse, St. George.

The amendment provides a formula for the corrective measure that should be taken to address the issue of national debt where the ratio of public debt to gross domestic product reaches 50%.

The cash-strapped Keith Mitchell led New National Party (NNP) administration was forced to turn to the IMF and World Bank in 2013 for assistance as the country defaulted on debt payments due to a host of commercial creditors.

The fund helped the island to broker a deal with the commercial creditors in which the government is expected to make payments on the outstanding high-interest bearing loans commencing this year.

The Fiscal responsibility legislation, is one of many recommendations made by the IMF to Government to help bring about fiscal stability in the country.

Speaking in Parliament, Minister Bowen said the bill “has to be followed throughout the period of the structural adjustment and after, if we do not want to return to the situation of 2010, 2011…when we saw the vast deterioration in the country’s fiscal management.”

He warned that “it (would be) extremely difficult, if we do not follow and stay the course” due to the fact that, “we would fall back”.

“…So all the parties must come together to ensure that we stay the course,” he said, noting that, “the Social Partners would be a big asset in ensuring that we stay the course.

“If we don’t stay the course our children and the nation would have to go through something worse, much worse. Right now, we asked for the sacrifice to be made, people have made it… (but) we should never forget that if we don’t stay the course we will fall back”, he added.
According to Minister Bowen, who holds the Works portfolio, the bill makes specific recommendations such as if the targeted primary balance is exceeded then corrective action should be taken.

“The corrective action would be taken where the expected primary balance exceeds the targeted primary balance by 3 per cent”, he remarked.

“So from 2016, we have to start monitoring the primary balance against the targeted primary balance…we look at the ratio – debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio – if our country expands its goods and services to the people then the GDP component would be larger and therefore we can take care of a large debt…we are trying to reach a debt to GDP ratio of 50 percent. So our debt should never be more than half of the GDP”, he said.

The senior government minister explained that the corrective measure has to do with a lot of things, such as wages and salaries, and increases in expenditure.

“It limits all of those, so it has great effect on the fiscal operations of the country,” he added.
Economic Development Minister Oliver Joseph voiced support for the bill, noting that “only two other CARICOM member states have it and a lot of member states are refusing to introduce it because it introduces strict discipline.”

Minister Joseph pointed out that “it (the bill) says what your debt to GDP ratio should be, what your primary balance should be, if you have to give any increase in the wage bill, what percentage of the GDP should be used, all these things are set out in law”.

“It’s there to ensure that we are guided and have fiscal prudence and that everything we do is done in a transparent, accountable manner and that we get the result that would help the country”, he said.

Grenada had raked up a massive debt of close to EC$1.7 billion between June 1995 and July 2008 under a previous Mitchell-led NNP regime as it engaged in a massive borrowing and spending spree.

Some of the loans were attracted at very high interest rates from non-traditional banking sources used by government especially in money markets in the United States and Trinidad & Tobago.

A passport to save the economy

SAUNDERSSeveral countries in the Caribbean now operate a Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) under which high-worth foreigners can obtain citizenship and passports of these countries.

The CIP has detractors both domestically and internationally, but is their derision fully justifiable, or do the benefits outweigh the unease?

Citizenship is a jealously guarded entitlement.  Persons born into a country in which they also grow-up naturally feel a strong bond with it.  Their personal identity is defined by their birth, their culture, their values and traditions.

The inclination to preserve the sanctity of citizenship and the standing of their passports are understandably important to them.  Therefore, the idea that these birth rights of citizenship and passports could be purchased somehow devalues them.  It is this perceived devaluation of birth rights that most informs the resistance of native-born persons to CIPs.

Additionally, there is a worry among native born citizens that the strength of their passports could be degraded if they fall into the hands of internationally undesirable persons. In turn, native born persons could be subjected to higher levels of scrutiny or may even be denied visa-free entry into other countries if their country’s passports fall under suspicion.

Certainly, there is evidence to support the latter concern.  For instance, Canadian authorities imposed visa requirements on all citizens of St Kitts-Nevis when that country’s passport was abused for an attempted entry into Canada by a foreigner. The people of St Kitts-Nevis must now be in possession of a visa before they can enter Canada – a restriction that native born Kittians and Nevisians resent and for which they blame their government’s CIP.

The international community – particularly the developed countries of North America and Western Europe – are also concerned about CIPs.  Their concern relates to security principally, although some of them that also operate CIPs might fear competition.

Countries such as Canada and the United States could decide that the most effective and cheapest way to eliminate the security risk would be to apply visa requirements on all passport holders of CIP countries, as happened in the case of Canada with St Kitts-Nevis.

Apart from the political disenchantment that the need for a visa to travel to Canada causes among the people of St Kitts-Nevis, the desirability of its citizenship and passport under the investment programme is diminished by the elimination of Canada from the number of countries for which entry does not require a visa.

These are very strong reasons why the CIPs have to be managed at a very high standard and with the most thorough investigation of the persons who apply for citizenship and passports.  Governments that fail to enforce high standards that satisfy the border authorities of North American and Western European countries will face visa restrictions, the erosion of their CIPs and the embitterment of their electorates. In other words, they would lose all round.

The terms of the CIP differ from country to country but the underlying basis is the same – citizenship and passports are granted in exchange for a significant financial investment.  In Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts-Nevis and (recently) St Lucia, there are two options – either a large contribution to a national development fund or a prescribed investment in real estate.  Typically the latter means buying land and building homes.
Some countries have been criticised for not requiring residence by successful citizenship by investment applicants. However, contributions to a national development fund, as distinct from buying land and building personal houses, maintain land for ownership by native born citizens and eliminates negative repercussions such as pushing up land and construction prices.

In St Kitts-Nevis, where the programme has been operational since 1984, considerable sums have been earned and the country has undoubtedly been saved from collapse by it.

The CIP in Antigua and Barbuda, which started in 2013, has also helped to avert an economic meltdown, particularly over the last 18 months when the present government streamlined the programme, launched an aggressive and high-level marketing campaign, and enhanced the quality of its investigations into citizenship applicants.

All of the Caribbean countries involved with citizenship by investment programmes have come to them by necessity. Poor terms of trade, vulnerability to financial downturns in North America and Europe from where most of their tourists come, declining aid, persistent natural disasters and no access to concessional financing from international financial institutions, have forced them to be creative in raising revenues.  They are all faced with fiscal deficits, high debt and an international environment that is unresponsive to their predicament.  Only China and Venezuela offered them concessional financing.

There is an argument that the CIPs will be short-lived.  It is dependent on wealthy persons seeking an alternative to insecurities in their homelands caused by wars, internal strife and government disregard for human rights.  Therefore, it is suggested that countries should place the proceeds into a sovereign wealth fund or some other sort of savings.  Ordinarily that proposal would make sense, but not in countries with fiscal deficits, high debt and high unemployment.

The revenues from the CIPs have to be used for financial and social stability now.  Saving makes little sense if provision is not made for preserving and enhancing the capacity of the country to survive. No point in saving for tomorrow and starving today.

The CIPs should serve Caribbean countries well for a few years to come, unless the developed countries, which themselves run citizenship programmes, feel sufficiently threatened to want to close out the competition. In one way or another, Citizenship by Investment programmes are operated by European Union countries such as Britain, France, Malta, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain as well as by the United States, Switzerland, New Zealand and Australia amongst others.

To maintain their share of the benefits of CIPs, Caribbean countries have to administer their programmes at a high standard – a point frequently made by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne. So far, the CIPs have provided governments passports to save their economies.

(Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.  The views expressed are his own)

Court of Appeal to sit this month

The Eastern Caribbean Court of Appeal is scheduled to visit Grenada to arbitrate on a number of cases in the local judicial system, during the week of January 25-29.

Lisa Telesford holds the post of Registrar of the Supreme Court of Grenada

Lisa Telesford holds the post of Registrar of the Supreme Court of Grenada

According to Registrar of the Supreme Court of Grenada, Attorney-at-Law, Lisa Telesford, “a bench of about four to five Judges” is expected to preside over the one-week sitting, carded for the No. 1 High Court in St. George’s.

In an interview with THE NEW TODAY  last week Tuesday, Telesford revealed that this year’s preliminary list comprises “20 substantive matters, and 12 (other) matters,” which she explained “will come up for status hearing”.

She described “status hearing” as an informal discussion between the Judge, Prosecution and the defendant about the case in which the defendant is allowed to change his or her plea or to continue with a not guilty plea.

The Court Registrar disclosed that out of the 20 substantive matters before the Justices of Appeal, “there are 8 applications, 4 civil appeals and 7 magisterial appeals”.

“…There are no criminal High Court matters listed”, she said, adding that “house breaking and stealing seems to be coming up more than ever in the Magisterial appeal.”

Attorney-at-Law Anslem Clouden also touched on the issue of the upcoming sitting of the Court of Appeal.

He commended the efforts of Minister for Legal Affairs, Elvin Nimrod in getting the Court of Appeal to come back to Grenada, following the cancellation of its February 24-28, 2014 sitting due to government’s failure to meet its obligation to make financial contributions to the Court at the required intervals.

“I think it’s good that we are back on stream now…we can expect regular sittings. Mr. Nimrod has done everything possible and I think we are back to normalcy now,” Clouden said.

Speculation was rife at the time that the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Tillman Thomas did not pay its dues to the Justices for two years and the current NNP administration was one year in default on payments to the judges.

The Court of Appeal generally sits three times a year in Grenada.

However, the Registrar pointed out that in recent times the Justices have been sitting “twice per year depending on the flow of matters to the Court of Appeal.”

In 2013, the Court of Appeal sat once in Grenada and a number of cases that should have been adjudicated upon were not done and are still on the list for hearing.

Prime Minister congratulates Grenada Industrial Development Corporation

Employees of the Grenada Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) came in for high praises from Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, when he paid a recent visit to their offices.

GIDCIn a tour that included six (6) businesses in the Frequente Industrial Park, the PM shared candid thoughts with an intimate gathering of employees.

The Prime Minister’s visit coincided with GIDC’s celebration of 30 years of achievement since it was first established on March 1, 1985.

In welcoming the Prime Minister, Chairman Leslie-Ann Seon noted that the visit gave merit and weight to the work of the Statutory Body and GIDC employees.

After the viewing of an “Invest Grenada” video produced in-house, newly appointed CEO Che’ Keens-Douglas echoed the appreciation for the Prime Minister taking time out of his very packed schedule to visit the offices noting that the GIDC was the “engine” to the national strategic direction of the Prime Minister.

Dr Mitchell told the group of Directors and employees that the GIDC is a critical institution.

He likened the recent restructuring that the Government has had to undergo as part of the Structural Adjustment Programme, to the similar exercise currently being undertaken at GIDC.

“We have to optimise our resources as best as possible. Every area of Government has been asked to manage itself better. We need to change our ways,” the PM underscored.

He then congratulated the leadership and entire employee body for “doing more with little.”

Alluding to Grenada’s position on the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking, he confirmed that the Government is taking initiatives to remedy the deficiencies.

“We are aware that one of the keys to a country’s development is the Private Sector, therefore we cannot have a low Doing Business ranking,” he added.

In the latest index for 2016, Grenada fell five (5) places to 135 out of 189 economies.

The Prime Minister advanced that legal reform was what was mostly required to improve Grenada’s ranking.

Dr. Mitchell highlighted the improvement in the economy, noting that with 5.1% growth recorded in 2015, Grenada is enjoying the best growth rate in the region.

He added that “with new initiatives coming on stream (in 2016), we can expect an even higher rate …” and that this would bring new job opportunities.

The Prime Minister also recognised that without the Unions doing their share regarding holding salaries and emoluments steady, this growth would not be possible.

“We should congratulate ourselves,” he said.

In closing, Prime Minister Mitchell thanked the Board and GIDC team for their support of initiatives to bring services and businesses into Grenada.

He also noted GIDC’s attempts to be more aggressive in attracting investments.

“The work is paying off. The budget is an indication,” he said.

Before proceeding to tour GIDC’s Computer Centre slotted to be brought on stream in 2016, the Prime Minister was presented with a gift by Jacintha Livingstone, who has been employed with the GIDC since its inception. GIDC’s 30th anniversary milestone is being celebrated from March 2015 to March 2016 under the theme “Enhancing the investment climate with renewed focus on economic growth through strategic planning g and partnerships, entrepreneurial development, and effective execution of investment policies.”

Activities so far have included an Investment Forum in April, a Deals Day at the Frequente Industrial Park in May and an outreach programme to all secondary schools in mainland Grenada and Carriacou.

REGIONAL INTEGRATION AND THE COST OF TRAVELLING

BrianFrancisDespite suggestions in some quarters and from prominent persons in the region that the CSME is virtually dead, we as citizens of the various countries should do all within our powers – individually and collectively – to ensure that regional integration remains alive and well and is treated as an inevitable outcome if we are to guarantee ourselves the best chance for sustained economic growth and development.

The fact that after more than forty years of trying we in CARICOM are no further along the integration ladder than a Common Market, as a stretch, is absolutely shameful given all of the historical and cultural features that ought to truss us together.  Strangely, though, we are in no position as small and vulnerable economies to give up the fight to integrate, irrespective of those among us who wish to advocate otherwise and for whatever reasons.  Why?

First, the performances of our economies in the recent past have been dismal, to say the least.  When our best performing economy can only grow by 5% and several others are struggling to record even a 1% rate of growth, something just isn’t quite right with the policies we implement in order to promote economic progress.

Second, at a time when more and more countries around the world are recognising the importance of integration, thus leading to the evolution of quite a number of regional trading agreements and blocs, we in CARICOM cannot continue to drag our feet in the exercise of our mandate to deepen the level and extent of integration among our countries.

Third, regional integration provides a reasonable basis for our countries to take advantage of the static effects of such initiatives; distinctively, trade creation and trade diversion.

One of the most critical aspects of regional integration is the possibility of expanding free trade among the various participating countries.  Given the astonishingly relatively low volume of trade in goods, services and factors of production evident among member countries of CARICOM, there should be incessant screaming and shouting from all circles for greater integration and hence more intra-regional trade.

Economic theory teaches that free trade is good for economic growth and development particularly because of the potentially positive effects on poverty.  Although the empirical evidence in support of this hypothesis is not conclusive, there is sufficient anecdotal substantiation that our small countries can use as a basis for accepting the fundamental prediction of this theory and hence for moving forward with an agenda that seeks to aggressively promote more trade among ourselves.  But, there is a caveat in all of this theorising.

You see, one of the things that do not receive sufficient attention in this debate about the trade-development nexus is the notion that the benefits to be derived from free trade as touted in the literature rest on an important assumption: the free movement of not only goods and services but also of the factors of production. Put simply, for CARICOM countries to benefit from free trade as part of the CSME, commodities such as rice, bananas, sugar and rum; construction workers, engineers, lawyers, doctors; citizens of our various countries; financial resources; and all other critical means of production must be allowed to move freely from one country to another. Otherwise, as has been our experiences after four decades of efforts at regional integration, we will merely be spinning top in mud; so to speak!

But, there is a real problem that we in CARICOM must live with as an inescapable aspect of our reality. Unlike the United States where one can generally drive a motor vehicle from one State to another, our countries are all separated by water. Hence, transportation becomes a key determinant of trade among our islands.

Focusing only on the movement of people, for the moment, it should be clear to all and sundry by now that the preposterously and clearly unsustainable high cost of travelling from one country to the next is a huge stumbling block in the way of regional integration.  How can people move if they cannot afford the cost of travelling by plane, our only real means of transportation?

If, therefore, we in CARICOM are really serious about regional integration as we should, the single most critical issue we have to get right is the cost of travelling. We cannot continue to have to pay in excess of USD500 for a ticket to travel on LIAT from Barbados to Grenada for less than a week stay, period!

This writer firmly believes that the blame for the high prices we are presented with each time we book a ticket to travel on LIAT among CARICOM countries has to be directed to our governments. Here is why!

Let’s examine the total cost of an actual LIAT ticket from Barbados to Grenada, return; for six days during the Christmas period, two passengers. The ‘Base Fare’ is 646.00 USD.  Can you deduce the total cost of this ticket?  Here it is: 1,012.14 USD.  Why the huge difference in the base price and the actual cost of the ticket?  You guessed it right: governments’ fees, charges and taxes!

Given the illustration in the preceding paragraph, need I explicitly tell you where the blame should be directed for the high cost of travelling in the region – a phenomenon that surely hurts regional integration?

(Dr. Brian Francis, a former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies)

Anglicans preparing to worship at regular church building

Archdeacon of the Anglican Church in Grenada, Christian Glasgow is looking forward to regular worship at the main church on Church Street, St. George’s which was damaged by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

Since the damage to the church, Sunday Worship has been taking place at the nearby St. George’s Anglican Senior School.

Christian Glasgow Archdeacon of the Anglican Church in Grenada

Christian Glasgow Archdeacon of the Anglican Church in Grenada

During his homily on Sunday, Archdeacon Glasgow announced that he will be using 2016 as a year of preparation for returning to the church which is currently under construction.

It is anticipated that renovation work will complete in time for the 2016 Christmas Holiday.

The Archdeacon indicated that it has been 11 years since Anglicans last worshipped as a “Sunday Congregation” at the St. George’s Anglican Church building on Church Street.

He said over the years many things have fallen away from them as Anglicans, with some of the people forgetting some of the very basic traditions of what makes them Anglicans.

“This year for me, would be the year of teaching, of preparation for returning to worshipping as Anglicans – worship in a proper church building,” he told the congregation.

The Head of the local Anglican Church also challenged his congregation to spend at least one hour a week refarmiliarising themselves with the Liturgy Book.

He said he has concluded that it is only on a Sunday morning, routinely, Anglicans take their Liturgy Book out of the hand bag or from the shelf.

Archdeacon Glasgow said the prayer book should be seen as their manual or manifesto for, in it, there are many words of wisdom and descriptions given to them to live the Christian life.

Recently, a monetary contribution of $10,000 was presented by the St. George’s Branch of the Anglican Mothers’ Union towards the rebuilding of the church.

Hermion St. Bernard of the Branch said that since Hurricane Ivan destroyed the church, each year, they have been putting aside a sum of money for the rebuilding project, and the sum presented is from what was saved over the years.

The money was delayed in handing over as members first wanted to see something tangible being done in the reconstruction phase.

Prior to the presentation a shipment of material from Guyana was received for the roof.
Chairperson of the building committee Lana McPhail indicated that work on the church building is now proceeding faster than what was first expected.

McPhail expressed the hope that more money will flow into the rebuilding fund project as they would like to have work on the second phase of the project continue following completion of work on the roof.

During the launch of the rebuilding of the Anglican Church in 2014, it was announced that work will last 18 months.

According to McPhail it took almost one year to obtain the roofing material from Guyana.

A Service Station under siege

I wrote to the press recently commending the RGPF Traffic Department for the efficient roll out of their traffic diversion plan for the town of St George. An arrangement that was deemed necessary due to the commencement of the Sendall tunnel physical works project.

This time I am making a plea to the powers-that-be to try to get our vehicular traffic operations under some semblance of control. I am a Grenadian citizen who spends a considerable amount of time driving on our roads.

Motorists frustrations are mounting on a daily basis. We have more drivers and vehicles using our limited road spaces now. This circumstance is further aggravated, because there seems to be no order, no discipline, and no one in charge or paying heed to the daily misuse of privilege, and the selfish practices that are perpetrated on a daily basis by some drivers on our roads.

Besides not giving signals or using their rear view mirrors, some drivers today stop anywhere at any time, with total disregard for anyone else’s right of way. I can only assume that some drivers have a special dispensation given to them by someone in authority to completely take control of our roads for their own personal conveniences.

Bus stops are passe. Individuals step out of their houses and stand at the side of the road, the shortest distance from their homes, knowing fully well that the buses would pick them up anywhere they find them waiting.

A glaring example of the existing traffic problems, is the chaotic tie up that takes place on a daily basis at Otway’s service station at Paddock. First of all, I cannot imagine how the beleaguered owners of that establishment continue to carry out their business operations. Their service station has been turned into a bus terminal.

The gas station is bracketed by both the Lagoon and the Springs top road, now a freeway used by buses that ply up and down the service station’s connecting road whilst hawking their fares. They sometimes park on the top side entirely blocking all entrance/exits.

I know the police are aware of this deplorable situation, because I heard them talk about the problem on the radio, months ago. Yet there is not a single police officer assigned at Otway’s to assist motorists and would be users of the station’s services, with the continuing inconveniences caused by the bus takeover.

Whilst driving towards Belmont recently, just as I was abreast of Otway’s gas station a bus stopped suddenly in front of me, right on the corner, with not a bus stop in sight. The conductor alighted, casually walked across the main road to stand at the top of the service station’s connecting road to solicit fares.

Meanwhile, there was a steady flow of traffic coming down the Paddock road towards town, so I had no opportunity to go around the parked bus that was blocking me as it sat comfortably domiciled on the corner with its engine switched off.

I waited for about five minutes that seemed like twenty, then, given a lull in the traffic stream I pulled alongside the bus and vented a bit strongly, perhaps, with the driver. He in turn vented right back, as was expected, and gave me a do something about it look, which he knew I could not fulfill.

He was right on this score, because I am not a uniformed official responsible for traffic control, and I carry no legal authority. What I do have is a right to enjoy free and unencumbered access to, and way of passage on, the public main road. Hence this letter.

I understand we have about 7-800 policemen in Grenada. But their visible presence is scant. I am not privy to the force’s allocation roster for their manpower distribution, but we need to see more uniforms on the streets. Maybe stepped up motorcycle patrols?

Noticeably, there is one officer on duty at Long Wall and one at the top of Young Street calling traffic. I assume there are a number of officers based at the Parish stations and on other assignments. But how many? Can we not spare a few officers, even if only at rush hour times, in the a.m. and evening, for an hour or two to assist with, and to address the existing confusion that is apparent in the form of congestion and driver delinquency taking place on our roads?

The officers can be assigned to known traffic arteries entering the town, for e.g. Lucas Street/ Carenage/Western main road, and at Grand Anse, where there are many business places, hotels restaurants/banks/the main road to the airport etc.

I have no personal beef with bus drivers and their operations when they are working hard to earn a living. But it must not be at the cost to and frustration of other road users like myself.
In a civilized society it is not enough to have laws. These regulations have to be adhered to. There has to be an effective compliance element in place to control the proverbial herd. When regulations are ignored, someone has to be penalised.

I would assume that the RGPF traffic control department is responsible for traffic control on our roads. If so, Mr. Commissioner, please react firmly. Because we need some help out here.

Roger Byer

How approachable is the Willie Redhead Foundation?

I am aware of the existence of the Willie Redhead Foundation – an organisation that has taken a keen interest in the Historical Heritage and the preservation of Historical buildings and sites of Grenada.

I have also read a few articles about the organisation but I am yet to see any social media contact details or an address for this organisation and therefore feel the organisation is restricted to the few (a selective group) and not the many.

I do apologise in advance if I have got it wrong but as someone who has always been interested in Historical Heritage in continental Europe as well as the Americas, I am fully well aware of the importance of protecting Historical buildings; Historical sites and places of National importance and when I visited Grenada in 2005 for the first time in fifty-four years, I was appalled at the neglect and lack of respect given to our National Treasures by the government as well as the people of this country.

Sad to say, the pride in our Nation’s Heritage does not appear to exist in our people. If it does, they certainly don’t show their appreciation publicly.

What has got up my nose is a recent article published by one of Grenada’s leading weeklies in which a senior Government Minister, Gregory Bowen (Works Minister) commented on the amount of derelict buildings in the Nation’s capital.

The article was entitled: “The abandoned buildings in the city.” Gregory Bowen is quoted as saying: “the buildings can be demolished and the owners then sent a bill to pay the cost.”

The problem I have with Mr Bowen’s comment is simple. Most of the derelict buildings in the Capital could be linked to either the Church or the State – the Government of Grenada (properties belonging to the people); and most of these buildings are not only of great significant Historical Interest but are the Nation Treasures and Heritage that should be valued as irreplaceable.

These are buildings that ought to be Grade Listed for their protection from vandals and vagabonds.

Knocking down Historical buildings would be committing criminal acts in my opinion and should be treated as a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. Such buildings are irreplaceable and must be saved for future generations.

Just to list a few: Government House with all its history not only of Grenada but that of the Windward Islands that were administered from this site; York House – Grenada Houses of Parliament until the hurricane of 2004; the National Library building; Fort George and Fort Matthew with their Historic French connection.

Is Gregory Bowen stark raving mad? The question one must ask is: Was Gregory Bowen speaking on behalf of his Government or was he speaking in a personal capacity? The only thing that needs to be demolished in St George’s is Gregory Bowen and I have very good reason for making such a comment.

In the article “the abandoned buildings in the City”, the Willie Redhead Foundation responded to the Minister’s comment with a damning detailed statement on the efforts the Foundation has made so far to Bowen and the Ministry he heads without any success to date.

Part of the statement reads: “The pronouncement made on public television by the Minister on Feb 18, 2014 that York House was structurally unsafe and should be demolished as it would not be cost effective to repair it, was challenged by the Foundation, and a letter to that effect was hand delivered to the Minister’s office on Feb 24, 2014.

There was no response to our letter, but the Parliamentary representative for the Town of St George, Hon. Nickolas Steele invited a delegation from the Foundation on March 4, 2014 to discuss the matter with him and to consider the Foundation’s recommendations for the Restoration of York House, a position which he himself and the Minister for Heritage & Culture supported.”

The statement goes on to comment on “subsequent meetings and inspections carried out by Grenada Institute of Professional Engineers and the Foundation for which a written technical report on the structural integrity of the building to the parties involved.”

“The party’s unanimous professional opinion was that the structure was generally sound and could be restored.”

The statement went on to say, “the second stage agreed, was to have the building and site cleaned and cleared of debris. It was the understanding of the inspection team that the cleaning and clearing of the building and site would be the responsibility of the Ministry of Works.” Gregory Bowen Ministry.

One year and ten months have gone and so far nothing has been done. So who is Gregory Bowen working for? The people of this country or is he in it for himself and should he be booted out of office?

My personal view is the Prime Minister should give this demolition Minister the chop or at least remove him from the Ministry of Works. His record shows he has  displayed total ignorance when it comes to our Nation’s Heritage.

The Foundation comments referred to “partnership working with government through the Ministry of Works in order to raise funds via the Grenadian Diaspora in the USA and Canada who are willing and able to offer substantial financial assistance of no less than 50% of the EC$5.0m (£1.25m sterling) estimated restoration cost of the project.”

It is at this point in the article that I take issue with the Foundation for instance; no mention whatsoever was made of the British Grenadian Diaspora. I am sure our High Commissioner in London could put out feelers and substantial sums can be raised from Grenadians and their off springs living in Great Britain.

Has any body bothered to contact Lewis Hamilton through his agent or his grandparents for that matter who live right here in St George’s? Lewis is a young man who has not forgotten his links/roots to Grenada and I am confident he would see it in his heart to support such a project.

The Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson should be approached. He is known for his charitable work through his various companies and I am sure if he is written to with a letter explaining the project and what it would mean for Grenada tourism industry in the future he would be happy to give it his support. He is well known for his generosity.

It is time the Willie Redhead Foundation start thinking about being inclusive and start an appeal right here in Grenada to raise some of the funds needed for their restoration work. Visitors to our shores including yours truly will be all too happy to contribute.

Has the Foundation bothered to try and seek professional advice and support from all those experts we have in Britain on restoration of Historical buildings? You name the buildings they have worked on restoring them – hundreds.

Perhaps a letter to the British High Commissioner requesting some expert support to restore British Victorian buildings such as York House and Government House would do the trick.

The Foundation needs to publicise itself by at least giving contact details in every article published in its name; in this regard sympathisers can become donors and make contact in regards to contributions.

A website should be used in an appeal showing some of our Historical buildings that are in ruins and the foundation’s objective/targets for restoration.

Winston Strachan

NDC on the Camerhogne Park issue

A showdown is in the making between the Keith Mitchell-led government and the country’s main opposition, National Democratic Congress (NDC) on the future of the Camerhogne Park at Grand Anse.

Congress leader, former Finance Minister Nazim Burke has called on the administration to come clean about the status of the Park that is allegedly needed by a foreign investor to construct a 5-star hotel.

“We call on the Government of Dr. Mitchell to come clean with the nation and tell us the true status of Camerhogne Park; If no agreement has yet been signed, retract from any negotiations with any developer to sell Camerhogne and advise the developer that Camerhogne is not for sale,” Burke told reporters at a press conference Monday at NDC’s headquarters in St. George’s.

The NDC Political Leader noted that the future of the park has affected Grenadians of all walks of life, since government’s bold announcement to consider relocating it to facilitate a request allegedly made by an Egyptian billionaire.

Burke, who is also a Senator in the Upper House of Parliament, urged the government to move with caution on Camerhogne Park.

“If on the other hand an agreement to sell Camerhogne Park has (already) been signed behind the backs of the Grenadian people (to) approach the developer and get out of that deal (and) continue to work with the developer to find an alternative investment opportunity that does not involve Camerhogne Park”, he said.

“We call on the developer, whoever he or she may be, not to enter into any agreement with the present government of Grenada to purchase Camerhogne Park and desecrate it against the wishes of the people,” he added.

Sen. Burke accused government officials of “continuing to tell blatant lies, half truths and conflicting stories to the Grenadian public about the future of Camerhogne Park.

He recalled that the Mitchell government had previously denied allegations that the park was being sold.

“When the issue first surfaced in 2013, the government flatly denied that there was any truth to it. I recall that in September 2013, Hon. Nickolas Steele, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke in an interview with Meaningful Television (MTV News) and he was adamant that Camerhogne Park was not being sold. He (Steele) said, that the concerns being expressed could be the result of misidentification between the Riviera Property and Camerhogne Park (and) this position was repeated and reinforced by other government Ministers,” he told the media.

“In a Press Cabinet briefing, (the) then Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Kenny Lalsingh told the nation that rumours going around about the park being sold are totally untrue. He (Lalsingh) said that he wanted the public to rest assured that there was no truth to the rumours at that (particular) time.

“He told the nation that the government had decided to retain the services of an Urban Planner to look at the entire area from Point Salines to Perseverance, to advise on how the area could be developed.

He (Lalsingh) said that if, after the Urban Planner submitted his report, it became clear that an alternate site can be found which will mean more to Grenada and its people, his government would consider it.”

Sen. Burke stated that Lalsingh had repeated this position both in the Senate and at a post-Cabinet press briefing.

The Camerhogne Park is located in the South St. George Constituency of former Tourism Minister, Alexander Otway-Noel, who is now serving as the Minister with responsibility for Implementation.

Sen. Burke pointed out that in September 2013, Minister Otway-Noel told the nation that government has “no plan to sell Camerhogne Park” and assured all concerned that, “Camerhogne Park is there for the residents and the visitors to South St George, to Grand Anse beach.”

The Congress leader said the most defining statement made on the issue came from PM Mitchell when he was presenting the 2016 Budget in November.

He spoke of Dr. Mitchell, who is also the Minister of Finance, making the following statement: “The Riviera Hotel is now being designed and will create a further 100 jobs during construction. During this design phase, the investors have agreed to construct a new Camerhogne Park nearby, and upgrade the vendors market and the basketball and tennis courts.”

According to Burke, “this was the first clear indication that Camerhogne Park was being given to a developer.”

He said:  “Notice how he (Dr. Mitchell) said during the design phase of the hotel, the investors have agreed that they will construct a new Camerhogne Park. He does not come out and tell us whether the present park will continue to exist or not. He leaves us wondering whether the park will be scrapped and replaced by this so-called new Camerhogne Park or whether we will have two Camerhogne parks.”

The NDC leader added that “Camerhogne Park represents everything that is Grenadian – nature, openness (and) warmth, the spirit of liberty and freedom of choice.

“It is the GREEN SPACE reserved on our best beach, for the use and enjoyment of the Grenadian people”, Burke said.

He also noted that there has been “no consultations with the Grenadian people to determine what would mean more to them. To date we have heard nothing about this Urban Planner- whether he has been retained, whether he has submitted a report, and what does this report say. In fact the government is still withholding from the people whether these lands have been sold or not”.

Sen. Burke also made specific references to the many different versions given by government ministers on the Camerhogne Park issue.

During last week Tuesday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, Sen. Winston Garraway informed the nation that there is a proposal on the table for the relocation of Camerhogne Park.
The following Wednesday, Minister Steele appeared on a local radio programme stating that all he knew was that Grenada was going to get a new upgraded park.

According to Burke, the following Friday evening “Senator Sheldon Scott, the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Information, when asked whether Camerhogne had been sold in a telephone interview (with a local television station), he told the nation it is not true that Camerhogne had been sold”.

“He (Scott) justified his answer by repeatedly stating that no agreement had yet been signed to sell Camerhogne Park”, said the Opposition Leader.

Burke went on to say: “When Prime Minister Mitchell told us that (in presenting the budget Nov 26, 2015) that the developers have agreed to design and build a new Camerhogne Park was he saying something different from what Sen. Sheldon Scott is saying? Was he (Dr. Mitchell) lying and Sheldon Scott is telling the truth or was Sheldon Scott lying and the Prime Minister was telling the truth? Who is really telling the truth?

“The NDC vehemently opposes the sale of Camerhogne Park to anyone whether local or foreign. The interest of the majority must take precedence over the interest of the few.

The NDC Political leader stated that “more is at stake than private deals and personal accolades.”

“It is a park by Grenadians for Grenadians…The very heritage of our country is under threat,” he added.

Burke stressed while “no one can deny that Grenada will benefit from an increase in the hotel room stock,” which would improve the tourism potential of the country; create jobs and increase tourism earnings and foreign exchange, it is not necessary to take away Camerhogne Park from the people in order to achieve this objective.”

“The selling of the area known as Camerhogne Park as part of any deal to facilitate the building of a hotel robs us of part of our heritage and is an insult to the patrimony of the people of Grenada,” he said.

The Opposition Leader said the NDC joins “in solidarity with all patriotic Grenadians and organisations that see it as their patriotic duty to stand up for the heritage and patrimony of our nation.”

Congress was expected to host a Town Hall meeting at the Grenada Trade Centre in Grand Anse this week to sensitise Grenadians on the issues surrounding the reported sale or gift of Camerhogne Park by the Government of Grenada to a developer and to discuss the future of Camerhogne.

Clack guilty of non-capital murder

February 1 is the date set for the sentencing of British national, Alexander Robert Clack who has been convicted of non-capital murder for the June 17, 2014 death of his 27-year old wife Nixiann Clack of Duquesne, St Mark.

 Alexander Robert Clack to be sentenced for murder on February 1

Alexander Robert Clack to be sentenced for murder on February 1

Clack, who is also a Grenadian citizen, was 32 years old when he reportedly killed his wife and dumped her body in a suitcase in a shallow grave in Mt. Moritz.

The accused was found guilty of non-capital murder by a 12-member jury, which turned in the unanimous verdict just 2 days before Christmas on December 23, bringing an end to the murder trial, which lasted for approximately 6 weeks at the No. 2 High Court in St. George’s.

Defense attorney, Anslem Clouden expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict handed down to his client, labeling it as “germane to the provision of the law in Grenada dealing with murder.”

“We expected a verdict of Manslaughter, because from the evidence there was no intention to kill,” Clouden told reporters gathered outside the courtroom.

Lead State Prosecutor, Howard Pinnock later told THE NEW TODAY that even though Clack is charged with non-capital murder the jury could have found him guilty of manslaughter “if they are not sure that he intended to kill his wife or was acting under provocation.”

Clack had reportedly “confessed” to killing his wife in a statement made to investigating officers.

However, in his unsworn statement, the now convicted British national claimed that the confession given to the police “was not of his free will.”

The trial took a different turn as Clack claimed that the police officers “beat him to confess,” and the presiding Judge, Justice Paula Gilford held a mini-trial in the absence of the jury to determine if the statement given to the police was done voluntarily or involuntarily.

A total of 8 witnesses were called to the stand to testify during the mini trial (apart from the 10 witnesses called for the Prosecution in the main trial).

Justice Gilford determined that Clack was not ill-treated but freely confessed to killing was considered as part of the evidence.

According to the autopsy report, Nixiann suffered from 18 separate injuries and died from manual strangulation and blunt force injuries.

THE NEW TODAY understands that the deceased was beaten in multiple places of her upper body,  suffered brain damage and bleeding in the brain, trauma to the chest, which resulted in bleeding in the lungs and injuries to the back and shoulder.

The incident allegedly took place on the sixth Anniversary of Nixiann’s marriage to Clack and the same day after she threatened to move from their home in Calliste back to her hometown with their 2-year old daughter due to an abusive relationship.

The body of the 27-year-old was discovered by police officers in a shallow grave in the hilly Mt. Moritz area of St. George’s.

Attorney Clouden maintains that there was nothing in the evidence to prove that his client had intent to kill and expressed confidence that he has a strong case for an appeal.

“We await the sentence…depending on the outcome, (and) then we would take the necessary steps to ensure that justice is done to Mr. Clack,” he said.

According to Clouden, one of the areas to be explored for appeal is the disclosure of certain information, which he claimed would have been helpful to his client.

“I would say unequivocally now, that one police witness said that there was information on Clack’s iphone and ipad, that if disclosed would have been beneficial to him (Clack) but they haven’t disclosed it…am not speaking prosecutorially…these items were in the hands of the police and they ought to have disclosed it,” Clouden said.

The outspoken attorney-at-law pointed out that “disclosure is one of the aspects that appellate courts frown on when it’s not disposed to accused persons.”

“We sadly have such an incident here with respect to this case,” Clouden said.
Following the announcement of the jury’s findings, a request was made by Clack’s defense for 2 reports, a special inquiry report or a pre-sentence report and a psychiatric report.

Clouden said the request is a “normal and necessary course to be taken when sentencing is to be pronounced.”

”There is a sufficient measure of jurisprudence (that) it is mandatory that before (a) sentence is passed on an accused person he or she must be given an opportunity to mitigate the sentence to be heard in his defense, where mitigating and aggravating circumstances could properly be adduced before the judge to determine the appropriateness of the sentence” that is intended to be administered, he explained.

Murder carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment but the sentence handed down by the judge can vary depending on the circumstances of the case.