In the Ring – a Commonwealth Secretary-General’s memoir

(On 26 February, Sir Ronald Sanders was invited to launch, “In the Ring”, a Commonwealth Memoir written by Sir Donald McKinnon, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth (2000-2008), at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.

This article is adapted from Sanders’ remarks.)

 

No Secretary-General of the Commonwealth has an easy time. Building consensus among countries large and small, rich and poor, black and white is extremely challenging, and, in the course of it, Secretaries-General are not only referees, sometimes they become the punching bag. In this context, Sir Don McKinnon’s Commonwealth Memoir is appropriately titled: “In the Ring”.

The book is remarkable for its frank account of the events that led-up to Robert Mugabe’s withdrawal of Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth in 2003. Mugabe took that action when it was evident that Commonwealth Heads of Government would make the decision to suspend Zimbabwe following seriously flawed elections. Inevitably, the Secretary-General was made the villain of the peace.

However, as Don relates in the book, his own reflection over Zimbabwe was more “in sorrow than in anger”. No Secretary-General relishes the suspension, expulsion or withdrawal of a member-state under his watch. And, Don bent over backwards to encourage President Mugabe to remain faithful to the Commonwealth’s Harare Principles – principles that were agreed by all Commonwealth Heads at a Meeting chaired by Mugabe himself.

No one is the more accountable custodian of the Commonwealth’s collective values than the Secretary-General. His primary touchstone is the values and principles to which all Commonwealth governments subscribe not only as a condition of their entry to the organisation but as a sina qua non for keeping such membership. As Don rightly observes in his book, “the Commonwealth and its institutions had to be protected”.

Don’s account of his efforts to engage Mugabe even after he had withdrawn Zimbabwe is an untold story which deserves to be known. And, Don has told it with clarity but also with a sense of disappointment and frustration. He has also not deprived his readers of an appreciation of the tensions that develop among Heads of Government in their decision-making on thorny issues.

That tension makes the Secretary-General’s job a lot harder, particularly when it occurs among the Troika – the three Heads of government – the past Chair, the present Chair and the incoming Chair.

The Secretary-General has to look to them for guidance over how to deal with another Head of Government such as Mugabe who rode roughshod over Commonwealth values in pursuit of his own narrow political agenda. This Memoir gives a full account of the tensions, the differences and even the vexations that occurred within the Troika.

It is a frank insight into the contest between efforts to preserve the Commonwealth’s shared values and the desire by a small number of Heads of Government to protect a fellow Head of Government who had thrown those values to the wind.

Of particular interest is Don’s account of the remarkable role played by P J Patterson, the Prime Minister of Jamaica, a small Commonwealth state, in the Heads of Government reaching a unanimous decision to continue the suspension of Zimbabwe. Don describes Patterson’s intervention as a “tour de force”.

“We are dealing with two almost irreconcilable positions and we have a consensus”, Don reports Patterson as saying. “Certainly not everybody is happy, but we must not now show a split”.

Patterson’s legal and political skills impressed the room and Commonwealth agreement was preserved. So was its commitment to its declared values.

If Don’s candid account of the tribulations that surrounded Zimbabwe is not a sufficiently compelling story of the Secretary-General’s challenging role in the Commonwealth ring, then his experience over suspended Pakistan under President Musharraf completes the tale.

As Secretary-General he was invited by the British government to the Lord Chancellor’s dinner for President Musharraf who was visiting Britain officially. This was in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities in the United States when Pakistan had overnight become the new “best friend” of the governments of Britain and the United States.

But, at the time Pakistan was suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth over very doubtful democratic institutions. Don did not regard Musharraf’s visit to London as a good thing. As he said in his well-known forthright manner, it would not have happened to Fiji, Nigeria or Zimbabwe while they were suspended.

It was, as he said, an example of one policy for the Commonwealth and another policy for bilateral relations. He was then promptly ‘uninvited’ from the dinner, before being ‘re-invited’ by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but placed at a table out of sight. Quite rightly Don declined the re-invitation. He had “no intention of being a pawn in their game”.

This was not the only occasion when a government expected the Secretary-General to act in its interest. But, as he pointed out to another government, the Secretary-General “has to work for the collective Commonwealth good, not just advance the view of one country”.

Indeed, every Secretary-General, however deeply involved he was in the affairs of his own country and its interests in the Commonwealth and the international community, has to leave that baggage at the entrance door of Marlborough House. He must become de-nationalised, colour blind, non-aligned religiously, and re-constructed as a Commonwealth being – whole and entire. Don McKinnon became that body as every Secretary-General has had to do.

When a senior British Foreign Office official, who insisted that Britain, as the biggest contributor to the Secretariat’s funding, should always hold the post of deputy-Secretary-General, Don told him that not only was Britain not getting the post, it also would not permanently be on the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.

Thirty-two of the Commonwealth’s 54 members are small states with problems and challenges that are peculiar to their vulnerabilities and lack of capacity to stand-up to powerful organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

When Commonwealth small states were being pummelled by the OECD over ‘harmful tax competition’, Don in his full Commonwealth regalia – his OECD membership card as former foreign minister of New Zealand firmly put away – championed the cause of the Commonwealth’s constituency of small states and curtailed bullying and an uneven playing field.

As a chronicle that is as frank in its content as it is wide in its telling of the inner workings of life in the ring of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon’s memoir is compulsory reading.

 

NB: In the Ring by Don McKinnon is published by Elliott and Thompson, London

 

(Sir Ronald Sanders is a Consultant, former Caribbean diplomat and Visiting Fellow, London University)

Building economic confidence

In an era of increasing globalisation, the financial and economic performances and prospects of economies throughout the world will forever be closely connected. This is particularly true in relation to countries’ main trading partners.

A cursory look back at the effects of the 2007/2008 global recession proves that point without ambiguity. Hence, when the global economy is booming, the potential for rapid expansion in the flow of goods, services and other financial assets increases dramatically and many countries are likely to experience higher economic growth rates and lower levels of poverty, consistent with theoretical expectations.

In times of recession, the opposite effects occur. That is precisely what has been happening not only in the Caribbean but also in various other countries across the globe. Why? The reasoning here is simple.

A glance at the national income identity would suggest that economic growth is the result of a combination of domestic spending (broadly defined as the sum of private consumption, investment and government expenditure) and net exports (the difference between total exports and imports of goods and services).

Taken together, these two components represent the internal and external factors that drive economic growth and development.

In times of a global recession, net exports are severely affected and downward pressure is brought to bear on a country’s growth prospects. Hence, more and more energy has to be directed at stimulating domestic economic activity if the country stands any real chance of growing.

It is within this context that building economic confidence locally takes on greatest meaning. Government’s intervention aside, stimulating economic growth and development during a global recession can only result from increasing consumer and investor confidence in the local economy.

Failure in that regard can only redound to more and more economic turmoil. The European experience is a good living example of this. From all available reports, the growth prospects for Europe as a whole in 2013 are extremely weak.

Given all of the developments taking place in many of the economies, consumer and investor confidence are low. It is for that reason that many businesses continue to stockpile inventories to the staggering level of $475 billion in 2012, according to Bloomberg.

Clearly, then, if domestic economic activity in Europe declines in an environment that is not being assisted by external factors, where would economic growth come from?

We in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean should look toward Europe, learn from those countries’ experiences, and be determined to put mechanisms in place to avoid a similar pitfall.

The Chamber of Industry and Commerce is calling on the government to hold discussions on the way forward in respect of many of the pressing problems confronting the economy.

Such an initiative could only serve to boost economic confidence because if the private sector is allowed to have an input into major policies, then, businesses are more likely to respond positively by way of investment and that will stimulate economic activity locally.

In the absence of any real global economic recovery on the horizon, stimulus for growth and development in Barbados can only come from the domestic side. And that is the simple reality facing us as a people and nation!

 

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

High expectation for LIME TV

Brian Pitt – privileged to have tested LIME TV

Grenadians could very well have the choice of subscribing to a new entertainment package before the end of the year that will be provided by telecommunications provider, LIME.

LIME TV, which is already available in some Caribbean islands, will soon extend to the Spice Isle offering a package of news, sports, and entertainment.

This was disclosed by LIME’s local General Manager, Angus Steele who was updating the media on developments during the company’s quarterly press conference at its Mt. Hartman location last week Wednesday.

According to Steele the company is committed to introducing the television service under the “E”, entertainment in LIME.

“It’s an exciting time for us with the testing of this new product. We can proudly say that all of our content is legal and it is a complete English feed that our customers will be receiving”, he said.

“We have over 120 channels available covering movies, music, sports, news, home and garden, food, comedy and more. The product has already been successfully rolled out in fellow LIME territories such as Barbados and Cayman”, he added.

LIME TV is currently in trial phase in Grenada in order to help the company to understand some of the challenges to be faced in delivering the entertainment package throughout the island.

According to Steele, about 20 persons are

already engaged in the trial run of LIME TV, which utilizes the company’s broadband internet network.

“We expect our service to be of a higher quality and a better off (vale) to the public,” he said.

The press conference was also graced with the presence of the LIME-contracted soca artiste, Tallpree who recently returned home from performing at the 2013 Soca Monarch finals in T&T.

Tallpree shared some of his experiences at the Soca Monarch and also at Dominica’s Creole in the Park festival and Carnival held last month.

The popular soca artiste was invited back by LIME Dominica to perform at their Monday Band on Carnival Monday after his outstanding performance at the Creole in the Park Festival held in October last year.

‘Progressives’ engaged in Unholy Alliance with NNP

The People of Grenada have spoken and we now have to live with the consequences. How does one begin to make sense of what has transpired? In doing so, my angle will be on the role of the leaders of the “progressive forces” as they love to label themselves.

In the build up to the 2008 Elections, the progressive forces threw its weight behind the best alternative to the NNP – i.e. the NDC.

By 2008, the people had had enough of the NNP’s excesses in Government, the blatant disregard for fairness and equity in handling Government’s business, not to mention the maligning of the “progressive forces” within the NDC, to the point of attempting to use the judiciary to debar legitimate Grenadian sons from participating in the Parliamentary Electoral process.

The people had had enough. The NDC presented the best alternative with a robust Manifesto and Plan. The mandate was clear. The people voted for a Party led by a trusted man of integrity. The people chose an NDC led by Mr. Tillman Thomas. In him they saw decency, humility, trustworthiness, integrity and the leader of a good team.

NDC was given the mandate to lead the nation out of the morass that the NNP had placed it after 13 years. The progressive forces were happy to be identified with the Good Governance Agenda put forward by the NDC. As fate would have it, the advent of the NDC in office, coincided with the downturn in the global economy.

Times had changed. Reasonable Grenadians understood this. Reasonable Grenadians were prepared to work with their Government to renew hope, restore

integrity to this nation and to build a Grenada wherein ALL would have an equal place.

The progressive forces seemed to have liked that in 2008. What then transpired? The long and short of it is simply put: the progressive forces were merely using the NDC and its trusted leader as a stepping stone to power.

The progressive forces merely wanted an “exchange” in operatives, not genuine change in the way of doing business. The progressive forces were prepared to simply use the rhetoric of Good Governance in order to occupy the seats of power for their own personal interests and to fulfill the agenda of their Pay-masters.

Examine the role played by the progressive forces in the 2013 Elections. Then ask yourself: Who in their good senses, despite whatever challenges, would turn-tail on the NDC: a party of sound core values. Who would tacitly welcome back the NNP into office? Who with a clear mind would beg, beseech, cajole and entice the unsuspecting populace, under the guise of being “progressive” to install the NNP regime back into office?

Who in their good senses would stand on an NNP platform or encourage others, after professing to be NDC Leaders who took the Oath to serve this country and who won on an NDC Ticket which subscribed to Good Governance, that it is now OK to Vote the NNP?

Who genuinely believes that this reckless and rudderless NNP has redeemed itself?

The NDC administration was diligent about re-balancing the Grenadian society. The NDC administration was adamant that fair play and justice for all were decent goals to pursue in government.

The NDC inherited a bad economy brought about mainly by the huge debt amassed by the NNP. Management of that crisis became a major focus. Our regional neighbours heaped praises on the NDC Administration for the effective management of the economy. But that is history!

We now look to see the magic of Dr. Patrick Antoine. How is it likely to happen? Already he has signalled: ‘Come with your cheque books – we are open for business … our lands are available’. So it is back to business NNP-style!

A gentle reminder though, that debt-forgiveness is merely ‘kicking the can down the road’. Our grandchildren will hold us all accountable, compliments the work of the progressive forces and their active role in 2013 Elections.

History will take copious note of the ones who either refused to vote or actively supported and voted NNP. How could they sleep with themselves when they know that they were actively involved in getting people to NOT vote for the NDC?

How could they live with themselves for promoting NNP and even be seen to be intimidating people in River Road within the 100 yards line on Election Day… actually telling voters to vote for Steele and the NNP?

Since when did NNP present itself as the best option for the Grenadian people? How has the NNP manifested to the world that it is a changed Party? Oh, how some regional leaders are now disappointed!

Even some of the ordinary people of the region are once again looking upon some of us in Grenada as among the most foolish people on the face of this PLANET.

They now say: ‘You had a great leader in Maurice Bishop … you killed him… now the same people have turned around and removed the NDC and its most trusted Leader … a man of integrity, a man who only wanted what is good for Grenada.

Can we conclude that a good manifestation of how this NNP administration is regarded was the fact that only one Head of Government attended the Swearing-in Ceremony on Sunday 3rd March 2013?

Some of the regional leaders would have read the Wikileaks and see for themselves who was bad-mouthing them with an Ambassador from a major country.

Would some regional heads feel comfortable at OECS and CARICOM meetings – to be seated at the same table with someone who was exposed in the Wikileaks as bad-mouthing them?

The Progressive Forces should proudly take responsibility for whatever transpires henceforth. Indeed, some of those progressive forces can now boast of topplingthree regimes in Grenada.

What an unholy alliance with the NNP. Woe be unto us in Grenada!!

A True Revolutionary

 

 

 

 

CARIBBEAN ECONOMIST CALLS FOR PRO-GROWTH STRATEGIES

BAHAMAS – A leading Caribbean economist says the newly elected administrations in Grenada and Barbados can steer their respective countries onto a path of economic sustainability, but it will require “genuine spiritual leadership devoid of ego in order to make difficult decisions with awareness, intelligence, wisdom and compassion.”

Zhivargo Laing, a former Bahamian cabinet minister, lauded the experience of Prime Ministers Dr. Keith Mitchell and Freundel Stuart of Grenada and Barbados respectively and noted they preside over their nations at a “challenging time in the economic and social history of the world, when there is a great need to pursue economic growth strategies that generate jobs and improve income prospects for their people.”

Laing noted that the Caribbean leaders “still face challenges as economic headwinds continue to buffet the global economy, notwithstanding its slow rebound from the recent financial and economic crisis.”

“However, there are possibilities from pursuing pro-growth policies,” suggested Laing who served as Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance in the past Hubert Ingraham administration.

He noted the need to “encourage domestic investment through international capital access and promote inward foreign direct investment.”

He also urged a similar push domestically to support the needs of small and medium size enterprises, “more so in non-financial ways (such as management, technology, market access and cost savings) and improving efficiencies in the public sector.”

Drawing on his own ministerial experiences, Laing recalled “one of the great lessons of the last crisis is that years of prudent fiscal management can produce financial headroom (low debt-servicing) which is an enormous asset to have in a crisis.”

This “headroom” was valuable, Laing asserted, because it provided “the ability to engage in the kind of fiscal activity that supports an economy, protects the financial system and provides relief to those socially displaced during a crisis.”

The former Bahamian finance minister said new administrations are quickly thrust into a balancing act, “facing the difficult task of balancing the realities of government finances with significantly limited room for maneuvering with the demands of greater investments in public education, public health, infrastructure, crime reduction and public sector reform.”

Governments can no longer implement their mandates all by themselves and with their allocated resources, he asserted: “They will have to be creative in exploring the benefits of prudent public private partnerships – as well as achieving efficiency gains in government administration.”

Laing, an author, management consultant and leadership trainer, said the Eastern Caribbean leaders also come to office when new global standards threaten some of the traditional economic sectors of Caribbean economies.

One such change, the new and evolving standards in international financial services, threatens the lucrative offshore financial sectors.

Urging careful attention to international trade negotiations, Laing pointed to policies which have made historic market access to certain products less effective and imposed new reciprocal demands that prove challenging to small and vulnerable industries.

He was confident the new administrations will “approach dealing with these issues with a clear sense of purpose but appreciating the competing interest of the global powers.”

In all of this, Laing believes, new and current administrations will have to recognise the enormous stress being suffered by so many families in their countries and which have taken many of them to “the brink of near hopelessness.”

Highlighting the human element of government priorities, he said “for many of these families, economic and social relief will not be forthcoming in any short period of time, so their frustrations may yet linger. It will be incumbent on leaders therefore to communicate with their populations genuinely and forthrightly.”

In such difficult economic times the former cabinet minister said “the demands of the present moment require honest public policy dialogue with citizens, making clear what is necessary, doable and prudent. Politics as usual will be a mistake.”

“Even in the best of times with all hands on deck, we are challenged to steer the ship of state to safe harbour; in the worst of times it is impossible to do so if all hands are not on deck. Prime Minister Mitchell of Grenada’s pledge to promote unity amongst his people is both timely and timeless. It is a necessary pledge throughout the region. Execution now is necessary,” he concluded.

 

 

 

 

Grenada Road Tax: Is this system fair?

Having been 11 months away from Grenada I arrive back the day before the country’s general election to find my vehicle (which was garaged for that period of time) un-insured and with an invalid road tax license disc -both of which expired at the end of June 2012.

The very next day I went to the insurance office to renew the insurance policy for 12 months then went off to the road tax (revenue) office to purchase a new road tax license disc only to be told at the cash desk that I also needed to have a vehicle inspection certificate.

Having been told where I needed to go to have the vehicle inspected and that it was alright to drive the vehicle there; I went the very next day to have the vehicle inspected.

On arrival I was told to reverse the vehicle onto what I prefer to describe as a bay. The chap carrying out the inspection did not say much and was very abrupt; he went like this: turn your lights on; turn your beam on; turn it off; turn your indicator on – left; turn it on – right; sound your horn; switch your wiper on.

He went to the rear: turn your lights on; turn it off; drive forward and press your brakes; put your vehicle in reverse. He came back to the front of the vehicle: switch your engine on; open the bonnet. He then wrote the vehicle reference down on a small slip of paper and said take this to the office. Which I did – got the certificate and took it together with the vehicle insurance certificate to the tax office on the Carenage.

The usual queuing up took place and I paid for a 12 months road tax license disc; queued up a second time got the road tax disc and went home only to find out when I got there that the license tax disc was dated 2012 and expires in June of 2013 (it is only valid for 4 months). Yes that is correct. I paid for a valid 12 months road tax license disc on the 20 February, 2013 in Grenada and was sold a disc that is pre-dated 8 months. How ridiculous!

Naturally, I went back to the office the very next day waited my turn and said to the chap (a policeman) they must be some mistake; I have been sold the wrong dated tax disc.

The youngish looking officer initially tried to be polite but could not help displaying his arrogance and lack of discipline when I exercised my rights and challenged what I saw as a corrupt and fraudulent system when he told me because of the vehicle registration number the road tax given to me was correct.

The vehicle was first registered in the month of June (never mind the year) and because it is not June as yet I have to be given a road tax license for June 2012.

I cannot understand what the vehicle registration number has to do with when a new vehicle road tax license is purchased also it would seem that this corrupt system that is currently in place does not allow one to even purchase a 6 months tax disc.

I asked the man: “Are you telling me that I purchased a road tax disc yesterday paid the full 12 months fee and it becomes invalid in 4 months?”

“Are you telling me that in 4 months time I have to have my vehicle inspected all over again, pay for inspection and yet another road tax licence?

When he said yes; I made it clear that it was not the end of the matter and I intended to take it higher. Off he went and started dribbling on about you can talk to my boss; the Sergeant, the Commissioner of Police etc.

Frankly, I cannot see what any of those people (those who administer the system) can do about a policy that is in my view fraudulent and needs radical change by politicians and perhaps an act of parliament.

The vehicle road tax license system currently operating in Grenada is in desperate need of change; it is old, corrupt and out-dated. A new and fairer system needs to be brought into place – one that makes sense and fits into the era we live in.

When I went to take out the vehicle insurance policy I was given one for 12 months starting from the 19 February (the day I renewed it). One expects no less from the vehicle licensing authority. Vehicle insurance and license is for allowing one to legally keep or drive that said vehicle on the highways, one don’t need either document to own a vehicle or to have it kept on private property.

In Britain if one takes their vehicle off the road for whatever reason or if the vehicle is sold one can apply for a refund base on the amount of months left before the license expires. One can apply for a 6 month road tax license or a 12 month road tax license disc which becomes valid from date of purchase.

This system has nothing whatsoever to do with when the vehicle was first registered or the date it was last licensed unless the application for renewal coincides with the invalid date.

As a matter of fact one is sent a reminder around the beginning of the month that the license expires and one can easily re-apply on line or by phone and the new vehicle license tax disc comes to you in the post within a week.

Grenada needs a similar and simple system that encourages people to purchase a valid road tax license if they have or want to keep a vehicle on the public highways, also a system that allows people to pay for usage of the highways and not penalise them for ownership of a vehicle regardless.

The system should also give people the choice of purchasing a license for 6 months or 12 months. Had the fraudulent system allowed for a 6 months road tax license in my case I would have at least had the opportunity to purchase a tax disc that is more realistic and fair to my current needs.

Finally, if one purchases something then in any right thinking society that operates a purchase law that item is theirs for keep should they wish to do so. So why does the licensing authority of Grenada keep the vehicle inspection certificate? Why does it become the property of the licensing authority and not the purchaser who is charged $30EC for the pleasure of having their vehicle inspected?

This again is all wrong also the test certificate should be valid for 12 months which should allow the holder to obtain a valid road tax license for that said vehicle at any time during the 12 months period provided the vehicle is insured.

The current system that is operated is prejudicial against the motorist as it penalises individuals two fold – you have to purchase a 12 month road tax license even if it is only valid for 1 month (based on the vehicle’s first registration) but before you do, you have to have your vehicle inspected; then at the end of that month when your license runs out you have to do it all over again.

What this means is that within the space of 4 or 5 weeks under the system currently operating in Grenada, a motorist could be forced to have a vehicle inspected and paid for twice at a cost of $60EC and also apply and pay for two separate vehicle road tax licenses costing $550EC. Absolutely ludicrous!

 

Winston Strachan

Problems in Agriculture sector

As someone who is worried over the deleterious direction the island has taken, I feel obligated to voice my concerns about some of the issues that are propelling us to that disastrous cliff.

The utter ugliness – both physical and behavioural – that is bedeviling our people and island is depressing.

I am exposed daily to this ugliness and it saddens me deeply; from the rudeness of civil servants to the public, who pay their salaries to the reckless and inconsiderate bus drivers who behave as though our public roads are theirs alone and to the young women displaying their new born bastards on their left shoulder as though they were badges of honour.

No shame attached to word bastard anymore – thanks to Francis Alexis’ concept of “a child is a child”.

I am hurt and troubled because I am convinced that this nastiness flows directly from the top of our society, beginning with the leading politicians who are supposed to be the emblem of morality and decency but have now become the embodiment of corruption and decadence.

It is becoming abundantly clear that a goodly number of our politicians are really nincompoops, strangers to truth and honesty.

I am an old man pushing eighty. I love my country as deeply as I loved my mother and have been feeling its pain since 1979. I think it is high time that Grenada be put into the hands of men and women of vision, courage and commitment who will shed this cloak of ugliness from our dear land and do what must be done to put this ship of state, back on the right course again.

I have a litany of issues that must be addressed and addressed urgently if this ship is to weather safely the local and global storms ahead.

Top of the local storm is the civil service. It must be independent of the political influence. Its wages, salaries and promotions must be determined solely on productivity and meritocracy: and a sense of service to the public must be preiminent.

Remember a good and efficient civil service is what runs a prosperous nation. The politician comes and goes but the civil servant is assured of his position until retirement or caught stealing during his tenure.

Next on the agenda is the Police department. A good police force and efficient civil service are indispensable to good government. The first business of the police is the maintenance of law and order; a well-run force should be the most respected institution in government. It is the nation’s symbol of safety and security.

The citizen must feel safe in his home, on the street, in his community, in his school, in his recreation center or his farm, where ever, with his property secured.

At this time crime and disorder are running rampant throughout the nation. Praedial larceny is the order of the day. There is no significant reason why a contingency of the police force is not established to patrol the productive farms in every parish.

There is no excuse why loitering and littering should be a problem in the villages and towns of this country. The police should not be permitted to run any private business where they deal directly with the public. Their integrity must not be in question.

Every citizen must show respect to the police and vice-versa. National patrolling by the police, of the streets, highways, towns, villages, schools and farms should be a must. A serious restructuring of the police force is warranted.

A look at labour unionism here is advisable. Unionism in the essential services – electricity, water, schools, hospitals and all statutory bodies, funded by taxpayer’s money should be prescribed.

And if we are talking about wages and salaries being compensated on the basis of productivity and meritocracy then, of course, labour unionism becomes obsolete.

The country also needs to take a look at how we select a candidate for general elections because this is crucial.

First of all, the previous governments have been remiss in not passing legislation, mandating that candidates declare their assets before becoming candidates in the election. We know that most of these politicians have larceny in their heart, so we must protect them from themselves.

If they can’t be honest, we must make them honest but we must put measures in place that will ensure that they do not enter as paupers and after five years in office leave as millionaires.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the electorate – every single voter – to examine the history of these candidates; how did they live? What did they do? How did they treat their wives, husbands, children, neighbours? What voluntary services did they render? Did they repay their loan to the lender? Were they expelled from foreign countries for violating the laws of the land?

These are not jokes they are telling questions. There are several issues that must be looked at seriously and they require thoughtful remedial approaches but because I am limited to time and space, I will number but a few

1. The Statutory Boards

2. The Cocoa and Nutmeg Association

3. The Ministry of Agriculture

4. Agriculture as the salvation of our financial misery

 

I am a farmer of some consequence. No bragging here, I am a serious farmer. All my farms produce are organically grown products. Cocoa, nutmeg, bananas, mangoes, sour sop, golden apple etc.

Organic is the future wave of the health industry. I am disheartened by the lack of vision in the Department of Agriculture – lack of vision on the part of government, period.

The good Lord has blessed us with a beautiful island with a lake at its summit, watering the entire island, a topography and richness of soil second to none in our universe.

A land with endless possibility of prosperity. A blessed piece of real estate that can make us truly independent but we make ourselves beggars, spitting in the face of the Almighty in spite of his bountiful gift to us

We deserve the curse.

Dennis Canning

After Chavez, a power vacuum

By Carl Meacham

 

The passing of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez from cancer, long expected despite his condition being shrouded in secrecy, has opened a Pandora’s box of questions concerning Venezuela’s future.

The Venezuelan constitution holds that power should have been given to the leader of the Venezuelan Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, once Chavez could not attend his own inauguration and new elections should have been held within 30 days. This did not happen.

Now, Nicolás Maduro, current vice president and Chávez’s hand-picked successor, will likely face divisions both from within the United Socialist Party of Venezuela and the Venezuelan military to keep his hold on power. But he also is likely to receive a challenge for the presidency from Henrique Capriles, current governor of Miranda and former presidential nominee, when and if an election is held.

Conflict among the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the military and the opposition will largely determine whether Venezuela has a smooth and peaceful transition or one that descends into violence as various factions lobby for power.

Since winning his first election in December 1998, Chávez dramatically reoriented Venezuela’s government and economy. His efforts have particularly focused on poverty reduction, providing housing and health services for the poor. Although Venezuelan poverty data are heavily disputed, most figures show poverty has indeed fallen.

World Bank statistics show a decline from 50 percent of the population in 1999 to 32 percent in 2012.Venezuela has the most equal income distribution in Latin America.

The Venezuelan economy has not fared as well, with economic growth from 1999-2010 averaging a mere 2.7%, according to International Monetary Fund figures. This stands out, given the strong economic performance of other Latin American economies during this time and high global oil prices since the mid-2000s; oil exports comprise roughly 95 percent of export earnings for Venezuelans.

Despite this windfall, the Chávez government has done little to

diversify the country away from its oil-dependence. At the same time, by using oil proceeds to fund social initiatives at home, support for Cuba and other regional initiatives, such as PetroCaribe, which provides oil to mostly Caribbean countries on generous repayment terms, oil production has declined nearly 25 percent since 2001.

And now, with Chávez’s death, a power vacuum has opened in Venezuela.

Under the political coalition of Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (the Democratic Unity Roundtable) and Capriles, the Venezuelan opposition

is the most united it has been under Chávez. But Capriles’ 11-point

defeat in October’s presidential election, coupled with Chávez’s

allies winning 20 of 23 gubernatorial elections in December,

underscores the fact that the opposition still holds little power.

Vice President Nicolás Maduro may not have the current president’s appeal with Venezuelans, but he will still head a party with considerable influence.

At the same time, the reaction of the Venezuelan military will be key to the transition.

With Chávez’s death, Diosdado Cabello, current president of the National Assembly, would preside over the country while new elections are called in 30 days. Speculation is rampant that Cabello, a former Venezuelan soldier who participated in the 1992 coup with Chávez, has stronger support within the military and they may push him as the next candidate.

Finally, there is the pro-Chávez camp that has committed itself to

the revolution and will likely follow the late president’s wishes and

push for Maduro.

Chávez allies have reason to be worried. Under PetroCaribe, members

received generous terms for oil purchases, with payments as low as 5% of market value, and the remainder paid off through generous loan terms spread over 25 years. Even better, payment could be made in manufactured goods, with a barter system replacing payments in numerous instances.

Cuba has been the prime beneficiary, receiving roughly 100,000 barrels of oil per day, which meets two-thirds of its daily requirement. If Venezuela’s next leader were to end the program, or even reduce the generous terms, many countries would see a shock as import bills rise (not to mention having to face a public forced to pay much higher energy prices). Absent Chávez’s leadership, the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas might also find itself increasingly marginalized.

Undoubtedly, Venezuela will remain divided no matter the next president, but fair and transparent elections will help ensure the next administration has the political capital to tackle needed reforms — from a stagnant economy to rising crimes rates, rampant

transnational crime and the rebuilding of the nation’s powerful state-owned oil company — that will benefit all Venezuelans.

Grenadians mourn Chavez

The two major political parties in Grenada have reacted to the death in Caracas on Tuesday of Venezuelan strongman leader, Hugo Chavez.

Both the ruling New National Party (NNP) and the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) have benefited from Venezuelan aid from Chavez during their stints in government in St. George’s.

The NNP which is now back in power after a four-and-a-half year stint in the opposition, issued the following release on Chavez’s death.

“The Political Leader of the New National Party, Dr. Keith Mitchell, the Executive and membership of the NNP party, extend their sincerest condolence to the Government and the people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, on the recent sad passing of President Hugo Chavez.

President Chavez will be greatly missed by Grenada for his significant contributions to the development of our country and people.

Under his Presidency, Venezuela provided significant benefits in the area of housing, healthcare, education, the PetroCaribe project, just to name a few.

President Chavez will be remembered as a true champion of those in need in his own country and beyond. He maintained a foreign policy throughout his time in public office by assisting less fortunate countries throughout the region and by sharing the wealth of his Nation for the betterment of others.

May the late President Hugo Chavez rest in peace and may God bless the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, its people and its Government”.

In its message, the Congress party of former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas referred to the late Venezuelan leader as “a true friend of Grenada” and one who had made “a significant contribution to the economic growth and development of Grenada”.

The NDC release said: “The National Democratic Congress is deeply saddened by the passing of the iconic President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, a true friend of Grenada, who attached great importance to the deepening of our traditional friendship, while promoting the continuous development of bilateral relations and cooperation.

Hugo Chavez made a significant contribution to the economic growth and development of Grenada through various programmes which directly benefited the ordinary people at the community level and the country as a whole.

Grenada-Venezuela relations were strengthened as a result of his leadership in promoting and deepening cooperation in various fields between our two countries.

His leadership in championing the plight of small island developing states in the global community was a feature of his Presidency and he will be remembered for the bond developed with CARICOM and CARIFORUM countries, as evidenced by the establishment of Petro Caribe, as one example.

Additionally, the marginalised and vulnerable in the Venezuelan society, have lost a hero.

The NDC expresses its condolences to the bereaved family and the government and people of Venezuela at this time of grief and loss of a true friend and statesman.

Our prayers are with you”.

Eleven-year Old Student Charged with Wounding

Principal Anthony Wellington – assaulted by one of his students

Violence at schools continues to raise its ugly head in Grenada.

A fracas at the St. John’s Christian Secondary School at Brothers in Gouyave, St. John’s last week Wednesday has resulted in the arrest and charge of an 11-year old student of the school and his 52-year old uncle, Cleo Sanderson.

The 11-year old youngster allegedly struck school principal Anthony Wellington with a cricket bat following an argument between the two inside a classroom.

An informed source told THE NEW TODAY Newspaper, that prior to the physical contact, a schoolteacher intervened during the argument in an effort to get the student to show some respect for the Principal.

He said the principal was sitting on a chair inside of the school when the student attacked him with the bat.

The source said after the 11-year struck the principal on his head, he allegedly told him that he was going home for his gun to shoot him.

Wellington who resides at Black Bay, St. John’s was taken to the General Hospital in St. George’s for medical attention.

Uncle of the young schoolboy, Cleo Sanderson, also entered the school compound and fought with one of the teachers.

Police have charged both Sanderson and his nephew in connection with the disturbances at the school.

The youngster is charged with causing a wound to his principal, and with threatening language.

The 52-year old uncle was also charged with causing harm to a teacher, Jarvin Edwards.