Youth Participation and Youth Development

The Keith Mitchell-led Government is investing time and money into youth participation and representation through a proposal that is geared at youth development.

According to Minister of Youth, Emmalin Pierre, a lot of questions have been raised about the absence of the mock parliament but government is moving forward by seeking to take things a step further.

Speaking at a recent media conference at the Ministerial Complex, she said government has engaged various young people through its youth organisations throughout the island.

“I was extremely amazed by the response of young people to that NTA certified programme in youth development and this is where we expect them to apply all of those skills and be certified, not just participating in a one-off session but to be certified in youth development,” she remarked.

She disclosed that government is moving forward with a model for youth participation and representation to take advantage of the debating and speaking skills of the youth.
This initiative, she said has been in the making for over a year and is foreseen to be one that will be adapted internationally.

“It’s now completed and government has just approved that Ministry of Legal Affairs must now work with the Ministry of Youth to pass (it) in Parliament.

“Our youth policy has just been tabled recently in parliament; we stand among the few internationally that (have) gone beyond not just having a policy but having it approved by the parliament, having it laid in parliament.

“…This proposal, when it reaches the stage of an act of Parliament, would see coming into being and I believe we would be first in the Caribbean – National Youth Elections. We would also see a Youth Parliament set up by law that would basically facilitate young people’s involvement in a very serious way in the national development process.

According to Minister Pierre, this Youth Policy will set the standards internationally for the way Youth Ambassadors are selected.

“We believe that it’s time that we move away from the hand picking of ambassadors…we are now moving to have young people decide who it is must represent them,” she said.

In addition, the senior government minister said that for the first time ever, Grenada is moving towards having an act of Parliament that would speak to the establishment of a National Youth Council.

NNP vs NDC in office!!!

I want to ask each Grenadian to make an honest assessment of the past 3 years under the NNP as compared to the previous 4 with the NDC.

How do you rate the fall in the monthly fiscal deficit from EC$19 Million to just over EC$1 Million? Think of the dedicated and diverse team that made this possible. All the Ministry Staff and consultants working under the leadership of a capable Cabinet to deliver real, tangible, positive and measurable results.

Little wonder each time the IMF visits Grenada they conclude with positive remarks, compliments and further commitments to assist.

All we hear from the opposition is complaints and trumped up lies about the IMANI program. Why not ask the hundreds of young people benefiting from the training and the new opportunities as a result?

Why not ask the gainfully employed persons who have participated in the program and now have jobs?

Where would these young people be today under an administration that lacked the vision to support such a program and lacked the knowledge and skill to execute it. Did the “heart” really care about our Youth?

Grenadians have grown tired of the NOISE of the NDC. They had their chance and almost ruined the country. Unprecedented increases in negative indicators like unemployment and unpaid claims in the Treasury.

In the last three years, despite the significant challenges faced when coming into office the Keith Mitchell-led NNP Government has been able to reverse these negative NDC trends.

Unemployment is down to 30% from a devastating 40% under the NDC.

Unpaid claims have fallen significantly from an NDC high of EC$110 million to EC$29 million but of important note is the fact that claims over 60 days are down to ZERO.

What of the Cabinet and Parliament? Over the last 3 years we have seen stability and progress as compared to infighting, resignations, firings and decay in the NDC time. It’s the leadership of Dr. Mitchell that guides this stability.

Now compare that to the Thomas-led NDC nightmare and let’s not even consider what would be in store for us if this country is led by an arrogant, angry man who cannot even control his temper when a little pressure is applied by a radio announcer.

Both Cabinet and Parliament continue to show a united and positive outlook under the NNP. Why would we even consider the far second alternative.

The fear of “what next” when Mr. Thomas and colleagues traveled to represent Grenada was answered by embarrassment after embarrassment.

However, it’s quite the contrary with Dr. Mitchell and his team as evidenced by renewed confidence in Grenada by the International community.

Prime Minister Cameron (of the United Kingdom) and President Maduro (of Venezuela) would not have even considered coming to Grenada under the NDC but renewed confidence in Grenada will see our international profile lifted to the benefit of all Grenadians, at home and abroad.

We must each clear our minds of all the garbage and lies of the NDC and their supporters and look at the facts and see the clear change to a positive path to continuous development and progress under the NNP and the leadership of Dr. Mitchell as Prime Minister.

Paul Gittens
St. Paul’s

RBC/RBTT donates to Richmond Home

As part of its corporate responsibility, the Royal Bank of Canada/Royal Bank of Trinidad & Tobago (RBC/RBTT) has donated some much needed items to the Richmond Home for the Elderly.

 (on the left), Acting Health Service Administrator, Joanna Humphrey, Acting Senior Nursing Officer, Anita Peters-Cromwel  and other members of staff at the Richmond Home; (on the right) RBC/RBTT Country Manager Musa Jasat, Programme Coordinator Mary Harford-Mitchell and other members of staff

(on the left), Acting Health Service Administrator, Joanna Humphrey, Acting Senior Nursing Officer, Anita Peters-Cromwel and other members of staff at the Richmond Home; (on the right) RBC/RBTT Country Manager Musa Jasat, Programme Coordinator Mary Harford-Mitchell and other members of staff

A brief ceremony was held at the home last week Wednesday for the handing over, which saw RBC/RBTT officials contributing a number of items including toilet paper, soap, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, among others.

Coordinator of the initiative, Mary Harford-Mitchell, said the donation  falls under the “RBC/RBTT Care for You programme,” which has been implemented in all RBTT territories.

She stated that the programme is geared towards providing support to needy individuals and organisations in communities.

She noted that the initiative, which commenced last February, has received an “outpouring of support from our staff members who were very passionate about giving.”

“Most of the items being donated today were given by the staff of the bank,” the coordinator said.

“As a company we believe that we can change the world and make a difference…we are very passionate about volunteering our time and resources to make a significant difference in our community,” she added.

In addressing the gathering, RBC/RBTT Country Manager, Musa Jasat, pointed that the bank was “always looking for opportunities to give back to the community,” adding that “one of our focus and value is to help clients strive and communities prosper.”

He expressed the view that the items donated will “alleviate some of the growing needs that the home may have.”

The Richmond Home, which is situated in a two-storey building next to the historical Fort Frederick at Richmond Hill, St. George, is owned and operated by the Government of Grenada and falls under the Ministry of Health.

It offers a free residential facility to senior citizens and is managed by a team of qualified caregivers.

After accepting the items, Acting Health Service Administrator with responsibility for the Richmond Home, Joanna Humphrey expressed gratitude to RBC for the generosity.

“We feel very happy whenever business places within the community make donations to the elderly, because we know they have given of their services already. So this is how we are saying thank you because sometimes they are the ones who (would) have laid the carpet for us to walk on”, she said.

“I want to say thank you,” she added expressing the hope that “the partnership will continue in the future.”

Most of the residents at the Richmond Home are elderly people who have lost their independence and do not have family members to ensure their care or have become destitute.

According to the Government website approximately 80% of the residents do not benefit from family support.

Despite all the efforts put in place by the staff, the material needs of the home in consumables and equipment is not met by the Government alone and the home substantially relies on donations for everything from washing powder to major repairs to the building, which was originally built in 1829.

Speaking with THE NEW TODAY newspaper following the brief handing over ceremony, Acting Senior Nursing Officer, Anita Peters-Cromwell said the donation will assist the home “very much.”

“It (the donation) is timely and will be used wisely,” said Nurse Peters-Cromwell.
Currently the Richmond Home houses 72 residents, 36 females and 36 males and comprises geriatric, mentally and physically challenged, destitute and psycho geriatric residents

 

International banditry

I once got hold of an American Student Dictionary and was shocked to find that the meaning of the word communism was defined as a government that do not allow freedom!  That’s the type of school in which men and women like Mr. Gregory Thomas belong.

However, in the English Oxford Dictionary, the same word, communism, is defined as an economic system in which the means of production; gas, coal, land which is the main factor of production, are socially owned and control.

Nevertheless, Mr. Thomas will find that no such system, so far, exist on this planet.  In countries like Cuba and China and tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia where one can lose one’s hand or head for minor offences, and which America supports, you have what is known as State Capitalism.

The capitalist system as a whole has outlived its usefulness.

In a world awash with food and money, a recent World Bank report found that an estimated three (3) billion persons, including millions in the U.S.A are living in degrading poverty.

Was it the guns that took away the economic freedom of those unfortunate persons?  No, Mr. Thomas, it is the economic system that you gravitate towards.

To add salt and pepper to the social and economic wounds of those persons, an American Republican commentator by the name of Ann Coulter, a supporter of Donald Trump, is on record as saying: ” We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity”.

Mr. Thomas, does this statement ring a bell?  That’s the kind of international banditry that so many persons who would regret themselves as ‘educators’ support.

Gregory Thomas can bleat as much as he likes, however, as long as that airport at Point Saline exist, the name Maurice Bishop shall never be forgotten.

E.M Rogers

The tax dodgers!!!

Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the United States of America, once said “the only things certain in life are death and tax” popularising a cliché that proves fundamentally flawed as a truism.

For whereas death is certain, tax is an option as abundantly manifested by the Panama Papers which resonate with the Grenada narrative at many levels and begs a revisit to the state of tax integrity in our country.

There are lessons to be learnt. The Panama Papers is a massive volume of secret documents leaked from the Mossack Fonseca law firm “naming and blaming” tax dodgers all over the world.  It is a damning indictment on rich and powerful people who hide their money in offshore tax havens, aiding and abetting “dirty money” laundering, drug trafficking, the arms race, and sanction violations on “rogue nations” like Iran and North Korea.

The global magnitude of the tax scandal, the high profile elites, celebrities, and tycoons involved are simply mind-boggling.

The documents blacklisted football legend Lionel Messi, British Prime Minister David Cameron, movie star Jackie Chan, Vladimir Putin of Russia, a string of FIFA officials, Prince Andrew’s wife Sarah Ferguson, brother-in-law of President Xi Jinping, son of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the tip of the iceberg.

Dictionaries and encyclopedias define tax dodgers as entities that, whether legally or illegally, fail to pay their fair share of government taxes using an array of devious ploys.

Tax laws and exchange control regulations are riddled with loopholes, “grey areas”, and fuzzy definitions, which tax dodgers exploit to the maximum.

Tax avoidance is the right to reduce your tax liability by any legitimate means at your disposal. This includes claims to tax exemptions, tax holidays, and duty concessions granted as investment incentives.

Tax evasion, however, is a capital crime punishable by heavy fines, incarceration, even death as in China. It is achieved by corruption, making false declarations, conflating evasion with avoidance, and the deliberate manipulation of tax codes with intent to deceive.

At the highest level of transgression taxable income and assets are hidden in tax havens to cheat the system.

The Panama Papers is an epiphany of gigantic proportions astounding the world with revelations of the clandestine activities of tax dodgers in the inner sanctum of tax sanctuaries.  It stands ultimate testimony to the extreme measures people take to deprive governments of their due taxes and that culprits are the wealthiest in society.

The global phenomenon of tax dodging hit developing countries like Grenada the hardest. OXFAM and ActionAid International estimate US$200 billion is sucked away annually from poor economies far exceeding global humanitarian aid and it is the leading driver of the dependency syndrome.

Tax dodging is callous, immoral, and unconscionable especially in the context of developing countries. It is most destructive to the vulnerable demographics of global poverty, damaging pathways to growth, development, and capacity building badly needed for social infrastructure like hospitals and schools.

As a misallocation of resources tax dodging exacerbates growing disparities in income distribution and widens the gap between rich and poor.

Transnational and multinational corporations and their domestic surrogates are arguably the biggest tax dodgers in the world.

Globalisation and financial liberalisation facilitate rapid cross-border capital flows and these corporations spin webs of tricks to repatriate their profits to safe havens.

Just clicking a button electronic fund transfers (EFTs) move billions from country to country in an endless game of “hide and seek” to escape taxation.

“Transfer pricing” is the favourite trick international consortiums use in tax collusions. They switch profits between subsidiaries in high-tax and low-tax or zero-rated jurisdictions before declaring their full profits often paying nothing to countries of profit origin.

The Washington-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) Commission estimated a U$13 trillion loss to the global economy from transfer pricing.

In 2013 the public exposure of tax cover-ups incriminated a whole bunch of nationals and multinationals in Grenada.

The Mitchell administration reported transfer tax leakages averaging U$500 million in a single decade and embarked on a campaign to stem the hemorrhaging from multinational companies.

In addition, hundreds of privileged and well connected Grenadians, including practicing politicians, were leveraging their power positions to defraud the government millions while the masses were burdened with the full weight of tax imposed under IMF/SAP fiscal policies.

They misrepresented their assets with false declarations, refused to file tax returns, or just bribed the authorities.

These revelations stunned the nation and prompted investigations to crack down on tax violators and make them pay.  However, the hullabaloo soon died down and today national tax dodging continues unabated with many professionals still “gaming the system”.

Even Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations and the IMF’s Christine Lagarde agree that the global tax system is structurally dysfunctional and unfair since it rewards the privileged and powerful and punishes the deprived and dispossessed.

A better version of Franklin’s quotation would be: “In life the only things certain are death and tax on poor people”.

Jay Bruno

Leave Camerhogne Park alone!!!

I have been moved to write on the controversy surrounding Camerhogne Park.  I had understood that this area had been given to the people of Grenada by a previous administration. I believe it is generally understood that a gift, once handed over, cannot be reclaimed.

I understand Prime Minister Mitchell’s desire to swell his government’s coffers but it is evident from the story in your newspaper of 22nd April, concerning the sale of the Hamilton Home by the previous P.M. that Dr. Mitchell is being hypocritical and exercising double-standards.

Ray Roberts’s assessment of the alternative sites offered in lieu of Camerhogne Park is one hundred percent correct: they are simply totally unsuitable for the reasons he has given.

Perhaps I have missed it, but I’ve not heard anyone ask the question: “Does Grenada, and Grand Anse in particular, NEED another hotel?” Has anyone conducted an official enquiry into at what capacity the existing hotels are operating, taken as average rooms filled over any normal 12-month period?

There is already a hotel development, Silver Sands, under construction in Grand Anse and I have been given to understand that most of the hotels struggle to achieve an economically viable number of reservations during many months.  I stand to be corrected if this is not the case.

Another aspect of more hotels is the impact on the environment. There are currently fears of water shortages as the river levels have been falling quite alarmingly, it seems, over the past decade or so.  More visitors produce more waste – solid and sewage and one can only guess what happens to that which is produced near the sea!

I understand that yachts, etc. visiting Grenada’s marinas, are told to go out to sea to discharge their untreated waste.  This has to impact on marine life.  Have you ever stopped to wonder what the fish you’re eating has eaten?

It’s all very well putting up new buildings but the construction methods and materials used leave much to be desired and the buildings put up today are unlikely to last for more than a century as they do in other countries.

Grenada is a small island. What will happen when all those buildings recently constructed and under construction currently, have to be demolished?  What will happen to the waste?

Okay, it may not concern you directly, but think of your children and grandchildren and the problems they are likely to face as a result of decisions taken today.

Mrs. S. M. Alexander

A world according to Trump

SAUNDERSDonald Trump’s Foreign Policy speech on April 27 did not once mention the Caribbean. The Caribbean should be grateful or there might have been a price tag for his attention. He did say, after all, that: “The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense – and, if not, the US must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves.” Whew!

And, he was talking about US friends in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) such as Britain, France and Germany.  In the same breath in which he said these countries would have to pay the US for defending them, he also said: “America is going to be a reliable friend and ally again”.  It seems, therefore, that in a Trump-America, there is a dollar tag for the US to be a “reliable friend and ally”.

It’s a shame that he did not say anything, in his much vaunted Foreign Policy speech, about Latin America except for a reference to the Presidential plane, Airforce One, being “disrespected” in Cuba. The regret about his not talking about Latin America is that we still don’t know how his now notorious “wall” between the US and Mexico will be built and how he expects Mexico to pay for it.

The truth is that Trump’s speech was a jumbled text obviously written in part by persons trying desperately to set out a real foreign policy and Trumpisms.  Trumpisms won the day causing any sensible thoughts to perish.  Witness, for instance, the perfectly sensible statement that: “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies”.

And, contrast it with the Trumpism: “Some groups will never be anything but our enemies”.  Those groups, alas, appear destined to always be enemies and spits in the face of the speech writer’s attempts to make “friends” of “old enemies”.

What was significant about this speech is that Trump read it from a teleprompter – something that he frequently mocked Hillary Clinton for doing. Anyone, who has endured the constant Television coverage of Trump’s town hall meetings and his participation in the so-called Republican debates for the party’s Presidential nominee, knows that his thoughts are unconnected and his vocabulary is limited.  He could not speak the more erudite passages in the text written by a scriptwriter.  Apart from the obvious Trumpisms, which he really means, the rest of the text was merely obligatory – something he had to say to show that he has some kind of foreign policy.

Here’s an example of the speechwriter as against Trumpism; the speechwriter’s words in arguing for a more transparent and principled approach to foreign policy were: “The best way to achieve those goals is through a disciplined, deliberate and consistent foreign policy”; and here is the Trumpism: “We have to be unpredictable and we have to be unpredictable starting now”.  The two ideas contradict each other.

Contradiction and inconsistency were the hallmarks of Trump’s foreign policy speech which could have left no one with any sense that, should he make it to the White House, the world will be a safe place. That sense of alarm was summed-up in this sentence: “We will no longer surrender this country, or its people, to the false song of globalism.”.

In other words, multilateral approaches through organisations, such as the United Nations and the Security Council, are “false”; unilateralism and an all-powerful US that bends the world to its will is the chosen Trump-path, reflected in the telling declaration: “We will spend what we need to rebuild our military. It is the cheapest investment we can make. We will develop, build and purchase the best equipment known to mankind. Our military dominance must be unquestioned”.

And he showed his contempt for the notion of global warming when he attacked Barack Obama’s military policy and threw in the scornful observation: “Our military is depleted, and we’re asking our generals and military leaders to worry about global warming”.  That, incidentally, was the only reference to climate change which threatens the existence of small island states such as those in the Caribbean.

The speech was much more an assault on the policies of the present Obama administration than it was a description of a credible foreign policy for the most powerful and pervasive nation on the planet.  At the end of the speech, we knew less about where a Trump Presidency would take America and the world than we knew from his many outrageous statements before it.

And, those statements included: building a wall to keep out Mexican rapists; banning Muslims from entering the United States; winning victories to make America great again; forcing China, India, Japan and Vietnam not to compete in trade with the US; carpet bombing and water boarding enemies such as ISIS.

His speech did have a ring of authoritarianism about it for everyone, including the business community of America.  The impression of autocracy was encapsulated in the following statement: “NAFTA (the North America Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico), as an example, has been a total disaster for the U.S. and has emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs. Never again. Only the reverse will happen. We will keep our jobs and bring in new ones. There will be consequences for companies that leave the U.S. only to exploit it later”.

It seems, businesses will have to conform to the dictates of a Trump government; their freedom will be constrained and failure to comply will have untold consequences.  America will be a different place if this comes to pass; so will be the world.

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

What is a Promise?

Human beings are prone to making mistakes and we all accept that.

However, there is a difference between mistake and policy. When one looks at the NNP and their various actions and statements over the years, the inescapable conclusion is that this party has adopted a policy of deception in its modus operandi.

It is no secret that all political parties want to achieve state power in order to implement their plans. Does this desire for power justify the outright lies and unrealistic promises that often
characterise political campaigns? Apparently, the NNP and their surrogates think so. Election campaign 2013 and NNP’s subsequent behaviour in office will bear me out on my position.

The biggest lie was that investors were lined up, just awaiting the return of the NNP. With victory achieved, the tune changed and we were told that things don’t happen overnight. Then Nikolai said the investors didn’t want to be named. Next he informed us that the ground was “heating up”.

In May, 2013, Mitchell listed several projects that were to begin within 3 months and told Rev. Stanford that he would step down if he couldn’t get the job done. PM Mitchell also announced the arrival of the Saviour Sawiris with his many 5 star hotels on Grand Anse beach.

Riviera Hotel was to be rebuilt by Sawaris, according to Mitchell but Nikolai contradicted Mitch by saying Fakhre was the investor. To date, no clarification by either man.

Another tall tale was Dr. Mitchell’s promise to spend $50 million in his first 100 days and create thousands of jobs. Daily paid workers are still awaiting the promised $10 per day increase on their wages.

NNP pledged to introduce smaller government. Instead, we have a situation where ALL 15 MPs, including those without any Cabinet responsibility, receive ministerial salaries.

Let’s not forget the scores of retired people of no special talent or skill, rehired by government, thus keeping capable young people on the unemployed list. Now, Dr. Mitchell wants to make government even “smaller” by adding 2 constituencies, which could only increase the burden on taxpayers.

NNP promised that there would be no increase in taxation but delivered 28 back-breaking taxes or increases in less than 3 years.

They castigated NDC for introducing VAT, yet NNP raised VAT on construction items from 5% to 15%!

Retrenchment, disguised as outsourcing and reorganisation, is now the order of the day, contrary to NNP’s campaign rhetoric. Remember they said that it was NDC planning to send home workers. They have found a willing partner in the turncoat, Chester Humphrey, who now supports a government that is openly engaged in union-busting.

Humphrey’s reward is a colonial wig. Chess, as a student of history and politics, I’m sure the following names ring a bell as far as their involvement with Dr. Mitchell is concerned: Herbert Blaize, Mark Isaac, Laurina Waldron, Einstein Louison, Spaceman Mitchell, Raphael Fletcher, Michael Baptiste, Malcolm Antoine, Clarence Rapier … I hope you and Pedro have adequate protection. A word to the wise.

The primary and secondary students received the biggest slap in the face though. After being promised laptops and tablets, all they got was a stinging insult by Minister Tony B, who told them that that was the least of his concerns right now.

NNP has colluded with some of its financiers to deny young people meaningful employment through the misuse of the Imani programme.

Rather than hiring them as full-time workers with the usual benefits, the employers get a constant supply of free labour at taxpayers’ expense. After two years of indentured servitude, the youths are back to square one. What happens to the millions of dollars saved by these employers by not having to pay wages? Why is one political party always so well-financed?

As election draws closer, we can expect to see the start of many “projects”. Students may get the laptops even though the conditions cited by Boatswain as holding up the distribution will probably still be present. Debushing and concrete work will suddenly become abundant.

A large scale house repair programme will be embarked on. A few taxes will be removed or reduced and Dr. Mitchell will claim victory in his so-called home grown programme. He will say that the sacrifice was worth it and we are beginning to enjoy the results. After painting a rosy picture, he will then ask for 5 more years.

The investor card will be pulled out again and the promises will be even sweeter next time around. The thinking is that Grenadians have short memory and are easy to “ketch”. I urge everyone to look at the history of NNP promises and not be fooled again. Cut out and save this article and you will see the next NNP campaign unfold just as I predict. This is a lying, deceitful government, bereft of new ideas and only concerned about retaining power for the enrichment of a few.

Vote them OUT at the next opportunity!

Arlington Keith David

GTUC President calls for renewed consciousness

With another general election approaching, the labour movement in Grenada has sounded an ominous warning to the Keith Mitchell-led government on those burning issues which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency such as pension and long-over due gratuity payments.

President of the PSA in Trinidad & Tobago Watson Duke and GTUC President Kenny James shakes hands in solidarity

President of the PSA in Trinidad & Tobago Watson Duke and GTUC President Kenny James shakes hands in solidarity

Placard

President of the Grenada Trades Union Council (GTUC), Kenny James used Sunday’s Labour Day platform at St. Patrick to call on workers to see the issue of pension as a major tool in casting their vote on election day.

James said it is time for Grenadians who are eligible to vote to consider this (pension) as an issue that will determine a decision at the polls.

“Comrades, a day is coming soon when those who wish to be employed on our behalf will come to us seeking our support to be our parliamentarians. Comrade, for us the campaign cannot be restricted to roads, the campaign should not be about infrastructure, the campaign should not be on the facilities we have created but the campaign should be on the pensions for public officers who serve this country with distinction…”, he told the Labour Day rally that was attended by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour, Elvin Nimrod.

Placard 1Placard 2In his hard-hitting speech, the GTUC President warned that some public officers will retire into poverty due to the austerity measures of the Structural Adjustment Programme initiated by Mitchell’s ruling New National Party (NNP) administration.

“…Our politicians …are comfortable to bamboozle us …on the pension issue while they continue to secure their pensions and those of party loyalist within ten (10) years or less”, he said.

According to James, the pensions for public officers will continue to be a major issue for the GTUC and its affiliates.

The GTUC boss called for a “renewed consciousness” among the nation’s populace that speaks to country and the empowerment of all citizens to make meaningful contributions to the development of the tri-island state.

“Brothers and sisters, beyond doubt we are a small island developing state with a small economy and great exposure to external shocks and vulnerabilities. Nevertheless, we cannot allow this situation to totally dictate the way in which we treat our people”, he said.

“We have seen how the school of thought of letting the market regulate itself has landed the world in a recession. It is time for us to refocus as a people, remembering that it is not only about eating ah food today, but the sustainable future of each Grenadians must be considered”, he added.

Save Camerhogne Park supporters Placard (K) Placard 2 Placard (P)James warned workers to be wary of attempts by government “to undermine or erode the gains of our unions for our people…”.

“…The GUTC calls for a renewed consciousness among our people…a consciousness that reflects a ‘Grenadianness’ void of partisan influences but guided by our view of a sustainable future for our peoples, which shall be championed by our Unions,” he told workers.

The President reflected on the many challenges that workers have been grappling with especially the effects of SAP, which he noted has “resulted in increased taxation on the middle class, increased lay-offs, the closure of the Grenada Postal Cooperation (GPC) for which to date the owner/s remain anonymous, increased food prices, and the merger of service providers creating a monopoly, which compromises the issue of pricing for these services.”

James also addressed the burning issue of the “non-collection of taxes from the professional class,” by government since it can result in the collection of more revenue for the Treasury..

He called on the NNP regime to impose taxes on the professional class and not only on a certain section of the population.

He said the “harsh reality, brothers and sisters, is that if any of us were to access the services of these professionals it would not be pro bono. As a matter of fact we have to pay before receiving the service nevertheless they are not paying their due to the government”.

“We say to the administration as part of our safeguarding of workers interest, stop playing games with us. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank do not need to show us or tell us how to collect taxes and how to access accounts.

“The workers of Grenada today say we pay them, make them pay you, collect your money from them because when you do, the benefits to all of us would be greater and the achievements of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) will also be greater.

The GTUC boss also addressed the most recent attempt by the Mitchell government to outsource the auxiliary and nursing staff in the health sector.

He charged that efforts to “undermine unions are afoot with the increase use of contract labour in the public sectors and the use of Imani trainees as full time workers.”

James said that while “the unions accept that in some areas of work contracts are necessary as reflected in the Labour Code, we also accept that within the public service and in some areas of the private sector the introduction of contracts is a backward step in the development of our people.”

“As the major employer in a developing society, government should be leading in its provision of sustainable job for the people of Grenada, rather than placing persons at a disadvantage”, he said.

“Any system of labour which does not enable our people to access financial services, or prevents our people from living and leading meaningful lives in the context of our culture should be resisted! Similarly, the use of Imani trainees as workers is tantamount to a new form of exploitation and slavery”, he added.

In a stinging attack on government, he accused the administration of using the Imanis and other contract workers as union-busting tactics.

James said: “Comrades a trainee according to the Merriam dictionary is someone who is being trained for a job, while a worker is a person who does a particular job to earn money. Therefore, whenever we attempt to use trainees to fill the positions of workers, this constitutes an abuse of that individual and furthermore exploitation when that person is not earning the same amount as the person who should have held the position permanently.

“In short, if you are doing a three thousand dollars job for $1000 as a trainee then you are being exploited. Moreover, government’s attempt to outsource the services of cleaners and cooks in the school system and nurses in the health system is another effort to frustrate the working class Grenadian, undermine the Unions and to remove the burden for the pensionable benefits that these workers are entitled to from the back of the government”, he told the workers.

According to James, there is no need for any government in office in a country like Grenada to place these essential services in the hands of the private sector as this opens the door to worker exploitation.

He charged that the government is engaged in such behaviour but is yet to hold formal discussions with the Public Workers Union (PWU), the legal bargaining agent for these auxiliary and nursing staff workers on this sensitive matter.

“I say to you comrades if anyone comes to you with a contract after your 10 or 20 years of service do not sign it. Do not sign it without the direction from your union the legal and constitutional bargaining agent for public officers. While outsourcing may be workable in some jurisdictions it is not applicable for us,” he said.

James also touched on the outstanding issue of the payment of increments to public officers and teachers.

This was an issue addressed by Labour Minister Elvin Nimrod, who was booed by the workers when making statements relating to government addressing issues affecting the poor and vulnerable in the country.

Minister Nimrod told the gathering that the issue of increments will soon be addressed as government remains committed to finding an amicable solution.

“The government is committed to meet its obligations for outstanding increments to public officers. Very soon my friends, very soon.

“We have requested the Ministry of Finance and Energy to calculate the extent of Government’s liability in respect of increment payments.

“The Ministry has since compiled the data and is analysing government’s liability to its employees.

On the issue of pensions, Minister Nimrod said government “fully appreciate the importance of this issue to workers and government is working assiduously to bring a conclusion to this problem.”

However, James said, “While the administration has indicated that it has given the go ahead to prepare the increments we (GTUC) are mindful that in this period of economic distress, a bird in hand is better than ten (10) in the bush.

The GTUC President went on to say: “…Until all officers who are so entitled receive their increments, we shall not settle”.

“The fact is that not all public officers are entitled to an increment as many of us are at the top of our scales. Consequently, government should not continue to break the law by not paying increments,” he added.

James told the gathering that the issue of pension to public officers continues to be a “sore issue” affecting the workers of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

“While we are happy that Sister Hermlyn Armstrong has received her payment, we are disappointed that the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) has benefited more than Sister Armstrong,” he said.

“The GTUC and all our affiliate unions stand resolute that despite the erroneous ruling of the judge the constitution clearly states that we are entitled to a pension and this to us means that this is separate, and distinct from our NIS old age benefits.

“Comrades, there is nothing that says an officer cannot or shouldn’t receive two pensions. In fact in some good private sector companies workers retire with their NIS benefit and their pension plans as negotiated between the employer and their union. Therefore amidst the issue of pension reform and the efforts of the Consultants hired through CARTAC, public officers need their pension.

Ms Armstrong was the recipient of this year’s May Day outstanding Awards.

Scores of workers and their bargaining agents flocked the streets of St. Patrick as they engaged in the annual march for workers rights in a procession, which started at the Mc Donald College through the main streets of Sauteurs and into the Fond Pasture, Mt Rodney.

Also standing in solidarity with the workers of Grenada was a delegation from Cuba and the Public Services Association (PSA) from the neighbouring island of Trinidad and Tobago.

Speaking with THE NEW TODAY following the ceremony, President of the PSA, which represents 8,000 plus workers, Watson Duke, said, his union was present to give “solidarity to our brothers and sisters in Grenada.”

Duke stated that “it is high time for us to see ourselves as the Caribbean man, same race, (travelling to the) same place on the same trip, on the same ship.

“The issues like pension, increments, contract employment, negotiation and austerity measures that makes cost of living more difficult for us are issues that we are here united on…I am saying that this unity will grow because what the Caribbean needs now is unity”, he said.

“If we unite, then the leaders themselves must have to unite and we are saying we want a better day…it is time that they deal with us justly and fairly,” he added.

NDC calls for a decrease in Petroleum tax

The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has called on Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell and his New National Party (NNP) administration to lower the tax on petroleum and petroleum products in keeping with the price range in other countries within the region.

NDC Political Leader Nazim Burke issued the call last week Monday during the weekly press briefing held at NDC Headquarters in St. George’s.

He expressed concern over the 90 cents increase in the price of gasoline from $12.30 to $13.20, which became effective on April 18.

“The continuing rise in the gas prices is an issue that continues to impact upon the population in a very real and substantial way”, Burke said, pointing to what he described as the “widening between the price of gas at the pumps in Grenada and the other countries within the last month”.

“The price of a gallon of gas was $12.30 as of March 18, today a gallon of gas sells for $13.20 and that compares with a price of $10.30 in St. Vincent, $12.50 in Antigua, $10.22 in St. Kitts, $9.92 in St Lucia, $9.32 in Dominica”, he said.

“This means that on average Grenada’s gas price is $2.73 more than the average price anywhere in the (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) sub-region”, Grenada’s price is 25 percent higher than in the other territories”, he told reporters.

He went on: “To put it in another form the quantity of gas that Grenadians are paying $100 for today, Dominica and the other countries are paying $75 for that same quantity of gas when they go to the pumps – this is how bad the situation is”.

Burke charged that the situation is “particularly worrying and troublesome” because Grenada purchases petroleum from neighbouring Trinidad and Tobago.

He pointed out that the petrol is transported from Trinidad by ship up the islands and that Grenada is the closest of the islands to the twin island republic.

“And so in terms of transportation cost, it’s low for Grenada than any of the other islands…we are right here but we are paying the most for it”, he said.

Burke recalled that 18 months ago a barrel of oil sold for US$143.00 on the world market at that time gas prices in Grenada was $16.00 a gallon.

“Today, the price of a barrel of oil is just about US$40.00 and when you look at the price it has only changed from $16.00 to $13.20. So the situation is really not justified”, he said.

Burke who is also a Senator in the country’s parliament advanced that the hike in gas price is happening because the “government continues to impose a very burdensome tax situation on the population”.

Since its return to office, the Mitchell-led regime has introduced a number of taxes and austerity measures in order to arrest a severe fiscal situation facing the island.

PM Mitchell has promised that a 3-year Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) initiated with the “blessings” of the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) is now into its final year.

Burke noted that “in every other country in the OECS, the petroleum tax is $3 per gallon (but) here it is $5.50 per gallon.

He claimed that in effect the “government is gouging the citizens” of the country.

“They (in government) are making up to EC$41.5 million per year from gasoline sales in the country and boasting that they are collecting more monies now than ever. In fact one of the ministers was on the television not too long ago saying that in the month of March, they realised more revenues than they have ever realized”, he said.

“So at a time when the government says it is collecting more monies now than ever it is still continuing to gouge the citizens”, he added.

Burke contended that the situation is “affecting all commuters that use the buses to come to work on a daily basis, the owners of vehicles travelling to and from work, church and other businesses….”.

He said that “businesses are also feeling the pressure” and that “the cost of fuel impacts on the cost of production”.

“…This situation is having a negative impact on economic activity in the country and this is the point that we continue to make, that the burden of taxes that the government (has introduced) is too high, that it is actually having the opposite effect – suffocating the economy”, he said.

The Congress leader reiterated the call for the NNP regime “to lower the petroleum tax so that we can benefit as the rest of the world is benefiting”.

Both NNP and Congress are believed to be preparing their election machinery for the next national poll expected within the next 12 months.