Home Featured Stories Address to the Nation by Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell

Address to the Nation by Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell

My fellow Grenadians.

It is my pleasure to address you today, in keeping with my promise to keep you updated and informed on the state of affairs in our dearly beloved country.

I do this with a heavy heart, not because of any desire to avoid my responsibility, but because it brings into focus the stark reality of the dismal social, economic and political situation that the country and its people are facing today. Brothers and sisters, for never before has our nation fallen so far so fast. Never before have we seen great promise turned into such despair and loss of hope. Never before have we been witness to such a drastic decline in the standard of living and the quality of life of our people.

But while we mourn, while many of us groan under the weight that we are forced to bear, there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel, that light is the opportunity that is soon coming when we the people of Grenada will be able to throw off the shackles of dismal administration. This administration is without a heart, it has no concern for the people. It is an administration that does not have what it takes to lead our country even in normal times.  In these difficult times, it is even worse. This Government is struggling to come to grips with the problems of today's Grenada in today's world. To put it simply, they are not able.

So I join with the song writer who penned the very pertinent words   'Oh the People that are weak, don't you mourn. We shall overcome someday'. And to this we can all say in chorus “Yes we shall” Yes we shall soon escape from this prison of backwardness that we are now in. We shall soon breathe the fresh air of a new and brighter day in our country. It is a day that will signal a new beginning for all our people.

Until that day comes, the leadership of the New National Party intends to keep our promise and to fulfil our responsibility to keep you the people informed. Until that day we will continue to report to you the people on significant developments and in particular to alert you when the government is engaging in behaviour which is not in keeping with your interest. Until that day we will remain ever watchful for we are fully aware of the fact that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

We will alert you on matters relating to how your money is being spent at a time when the both the unemployed and the working poor are unable to make ends meet, hard working public servants are unable to get increases, the wages of poor road workers have been cut, while they are getting less work; at a time when businesses are closing and general unemployment is skyrocketing.

It is paradoxical that while the Government is showing little regard for the plight of the people, they are continuing to lavish themselves and their few highly favoured and privileged supporters with the people's money. I have spoken time and again about the many trips abroad at taxpayers' expense and the practice of employing supporters on contracts with fat salaries while regular Government employees-teachers, nurses, public servants, police officers, road workers, maintenance workers etc are made to try to survive on 2007 salaries in 2011. In the private sector bus owners and drivers, fishermen and fish vendors, large and small farmers, market vendors, the people who sell snacks and refreshment to make a living are all struggling. When we take note of these things, when we consider the fact that the workers in the debushing programme are being made to work longer hours for less pay while party bigwigs sit at desks in ministries doing nothing, we can only be consoled by the knowledge that The Good Lord is watching over all of us, that he cares for us, and that he will bring an end to this situation sooner or later.

This Government really does not have a heart. It does not show love for the people, hence the anti-people and anti-poor people decisions. There is no love among its members, hence the continuous infighting. Any leadership which behaves in this manner cannot inspire and instil confidence in its followers. Any Government which is seriously committed to its responsibilities and has any feeling of solidarity with its people will certainly act differently.

We of the New National Party note with great concern that while all this is taking place, the Government is seriously failing in its responsibility to provide basic goods and services including teaching and learning  materials for schools, medical supplies-including essential drugs- for  the General Hospital. The government is also failing to maintain essential public infrastructure such as Government buildings, roads and bridges. Failure to make a stitch in time with regard to these public assets will certainly place a great financial burden on the Grenadian public in the very near future.

It is now very obvious to all that the vast majority of the people, including most of those who voted for this Government are hurting and hurting badly. The people's quality of life and standard of living has declined drastically from what it used to be four years ago.  What I mentioned before about the plight of workers in the public sector is also true for private sector workers. They all have to contend with higher taxes and prices while salaries and wages are more or less stagnant.

The population, in general, is under great stress. People are getting physically sick and some are even dying as a result of stress. So in addition to losing their jobs and being among the long term unemployed, many people have to contend with high health-care expenses. Tragically, families are losing loved ones.

In the last three and a half years an unprecedented number of businesses have had to close, resulting in job losses for many people. This includes of all types and in different industries and sectors, from general wholesale and retail outlets to hotels, to construction companies, to professional businesses to institutions which specialized in providing financial support to the poor.  This is very clear for all to see. Yet, the Minister of Finance said in his budget presentation that he was not aware that all this was happening. We also know, my fellow Grenadians, that as a result of the Government's lack of vision and foresight, new investment is at a standstill.

Recently, the Government proudly boasted that it had done very much to improve the climate for investment.  It said that the country's ranking had improved. Well contrary to this boast, and in spite of the huge amount of money spent to establish a specific Office for business promotion, the country's ranking has not improved compared to when the NNP was in office. This fact is supported by the conclusions of an independent study that was recently conducted by our own university, the University of the West Indies.  The study concluded that in spite of this boast, Grenada in fact has a very low ranking when compared with other OECS and Caribbean countries in terms of creating a climate which encourages business start-up and development. A lot of taxpayers' money has been spent, and our country has not realized any benefits. It is a waste of scarce resources, at a time when the country cannot afford it.  Our people know too well that in spite of all the talk and all the money spent, Grenada is not attracting investment; we are in fact losing business.

My fellow Grenadians, the little work on projects that we are now seeing or expecting in the public sector is what was agreed and secured years ago when the NNP was in office. This includes the Grenville Market project which was approved in 2006 and launched in 2007. Had the NNP remained in office, implementation of this project would not be just beginning, it would have been completed.  By now we would have had additional projects of the same or similar nature. In addition, the people of St. Andrew and the country as a whole would have already started to realize the benefits such as better and healthier facilities and improved markets for their produce, which would have lead to increased production and greater income for farmers and other producers.  These were the intended benefits of the project, not the construction itself. The delays mean that the people will take a much longer time to realize the intended benefits.

Added to this some projects and initiatives have been lost altogether.  The fact is that this Government has a history of either delaying projects or causing them to be lost altogether.  I draw your attention to the following:

1) The second phase of the port Expansion Project has been lost due to Government procrastination and lack of unified and decisive decision making.

2) The above-mentioned Grenville Market project has been delayed for more that three and a   half years as a result of procrastination, poor decision-making and a basic lack of understanding of project implementation and management.

3) Now that Kirani James has done well they are suddenly interested in completing the athletic section of the National Stadium. As a matter of fact, they said that they came into office in time to stop it. Can you imagine that? Had the Government followed up on the project, the stadium would be finished a long time ago and we would now be producing more Kirani James'.  I understand that they have agreed to the completion of the stadium at the expense of a full 1000 of the 2000 houses agreed during the NNP Government, Under the NNP Grenadians would have had both the houses and the Stadium. And they would have been completed long ago.

4) The Farm Roads Project has been lost ( a severe blow to agricultural development). It goes without saying that good farm roads are important to agricultural development. Therefore farmers in areas where roads were scheduled to be built or upgraded have lost a great deal. The people of Willis, New Hampshire, Grenville Vale, Beausejour and Happy Hill must by now be regretting the loss of the benefits that would have come with the implementation of the second phase of the access road from Willis through Grenville Vale to Beausejour. This road would have been of tremendous benefit to the people and farmers of the area as it would have contributed to an increase in agricultural production and an improvement in the quality of life of the people.

This is of course directly related to the Government's great zeal to get rid of CCC. The result is that hundreds of Grenadians have lost jobs-and their families are suffering -hundreds more will not be getting jobs, farmers and the general public have lost significant benefits, and the country has gotten a bad name with many international developers and investors.

This Government's record of excessive delays in project implementation, and outright cancellation and loss of projects have resulted in the loss of employment opportunities and income as well as the benefits that the people of Grenada would have had after completion and during operations. It is as if the Government thinks that it is really harming the NNP. It has to understand that it is the people that it claims to love that are really hurting badly because they are in fact losing so much.  It is obvious that contrary to its claims, This Administration does not really have a heart. At least it does not have a heart for the people.

In spite of this dismal situation, we hear boasting about what the Government is doing even though in most cases they are only completing NNP-inspired and designed projects, which have been delayed so long as a result of years of procrastination, poor decision-making and spite.

The young people of the country are hurting as a result of lack of opportunity for employment and self improvement. Under the present situation, they see no hope for the future.  We are all aware of the evils that have befallen many of them as they have no opportunities and have lost hope. As a people, we need to make a stitch in time to prevent an entire generation from being lost. It is with some sense of foreboding that I recall a young lady asking me 'Dr. Mitchell, are you aware that the country is losing a whole generation of young people?' This is sad indeed, but it is a real possibility. It is a reflection of the way it is at this very depressing time in our country's history.

Fellow Grenadians, as if to add insult to injury, this Government continues to embarrass Grenada in the international community by failing to honour national debt obligations. You would have heard the recent talk about the Government's failure to service the Taiwanese loans behaving as if debts that the country incurred when the NNP was in Government are not the responsibility of the NDC Government. This is laughable for we are fully aware that the first loan was taken long before the NNP came into Government in 1995. It is also laughable because right now they are busy implementing-and boasting-about projects for which the NNP secured the financing-Grenville Market Project and so on- while at the same time trying to escape the responsibility to service Government debt. This Government is already embarrassing the people of Grenada. They want to embarrass us even more.

The truth, my fellow Grenadians is that no government anywhere in the world could refuse to service its country's national debt-or portions of it- because it was not in office at the time. Tell me where else in the world is this happening. A national responsibility is a national responsibility and all those who obtain political power must realize and respect that. If the present practice continues, our country will lose all respect in international circles, nobody would want to do business with us and countries and organizations would resort to whatever action they see fit to recover their money. This will bring disaster to our people.

It has been said that this situation has occurred because budgetary provisions were not made. That kind of omission, whether deliberate or not, is very unfortunate, as it can hurt our country very badly.

When the NNP came into office in 1995, the country was riddled with debt. As many of you know, the people were burdened by a Debt Service Levy. We did not engage in dodging and complaining, but set about taking our responsibilities seriously. Throughout our term we were able to engage in creative strategies to ensure that we serviced the country's debt regardless of who was in power when loans were taken. We did not seek to blame everybody and everything as this Government does. No, we serviced the debt, thereby maintaining the confidence of the international community while we took measures to promote growth with the purpose of improving our people's lives and earning more revenue to pay off the debt. You would note that this kind of growth-promotion strategy is what is being recommended to enable European countries to handle the current debt crisis. Instead of promoting growth, this Government focuses on cutting everything except the big salaries and perks for its members and those who are very close to them. It may be difficult to imagine, but it is true that the public sector wage bill has increased by approximately ten million dollars per month, yes ten million dollars more each and every month-$120 million per year. This money could have been used to increase public servants salaries, pay off some of the debt, provide road workers with more work at more decent wages, provide assistance to the poor and unfortunate among us, and much more. No, my fellow Grenadians, this $120 million per year is not used for these things, instead it is used to provide big salaries and allowances to highly favoured bigwigs and party supporters. Such a thing was never done under the NNP. We will never do such a thing to the people of Grenada.

We urge this Government to take good note of what is happening in the world and to be extra careful of what it does for it faces the possibility of being unable to secure international financing in the very near future. The real losers will be the people of Grenada.

My dear People, the New National Party has been keenly observing the worsening situation in the country over the past three years and has been giving consideration to the strategies and the specific approaches and initiatives we will use to get this country back on a sound footing in the shortest possible space of time. Mind you, we will not make empty and unrealistic promises to you. You have had enough of that and have been disappointed enough! Right now you are suffering the effects of broken promises.

But as you know we have a good track record of keeping the economy growing and meeting the peoples' needs,   even through very difficult times. Yes our record shows that through the good times and bad times, even in the face of great disasters, we have managed well resulting in significant direct and indirect benefits to our people. There is no one who can honestly doubt the fact that under the NNP the lot of the people of Grenada improved significantly. No one can doubt the fact that under the NNP the Grenadian people were much better off than they are today.

We of the NNP are confident that with our very good record of turning things around quickly, with our promised inclusive approach to Governance, with the confidence that we enjoy among the local, regional and international business community, with our good track record with relevant development organizations and with the involvement of all of our people in the rebuilding process, we will be able to turn things around in a short space of time. We are not saying it will be easy, but we have the good reasons to be confident.

On the basis of our ongoing contacts, we can give you the assurance that many business people who have left our country in the last three years and others who stayed away because of the lack of confidence are waiting for the opportunity to return and invest in our country. We will also put in place a package of measures, including relevant incentives, to attract new incentives. Among these measures will be the issuing of Alien Land Holding Licences for serious, credible foreign investors,

In addition, our good relations with the development and donor community should help us to unlock stalled projects and to very quickly negotiate new ones. Fellow Grenadians, this is not just old talk and fancy promises. These assurances are given on the basis of continued engagement with these partners and their representatives.  We take our responsibilities to protect the interest of our people and the future of our nation very seriously.

Very importantly, we will put an end to the kind of political tribalism that is practised in Grenada these days. We intend to quickly mobilize and utilize the energies of all our people regardless as to whether they support the NNP or not. The kind of governance in which people are declared undesirable and their skills and competencies overlooked even though they are ready and willing to serve, must be ended. Getting out of this terrible situation dictates that all willing and capable hands must be on board.  For the sake of our children, we must put an end to this continuing wastage of valuable human resources. We must put an end to the politics and related practices of spite.  Our philosophy continues to be based and focussed on the people, ALL THE PEOPLE, the real facilitators of growth and development in every country.

We will also put an end to harassment and witch hunting. Given the gravity of the situation, we will have no time for that. Once we are confident that people are honest and productive, we will engage them and give them the opportunity to serve.

Within the framework of the engagement and mobilization of all our resources and capabilities, we will give due consideration to the role that the local private sector will have to play in the process of recovery and rebuilding. The New National Party firmly believes that the private sector, and not the Government, is the engine of growth in any country. This truism is accepted internationally almost without exception.  We will therefore provide the leadership, including the incentives and other support measures, required to get the local private sector investing again and to attract regional and international investors. Specific steps will be taken to support public/private partnerships and partnerships between local and foreign investors.

All Grenadians are fully aware that construction provides work for thousands of Grenadians, particularly our young people. Therefore no Government should neglect this very important industry. Accordingly, we will focus on getting construction back on its feet. One of the first measures we will take as a Government will be aimed at reducing the cost of construction inputs such as sand, gravel and other building materials. This will include a review of the Value Added Tax as it is now designed and implemented with a view to adjusting it in some cases and removing it in others.

We are also aware of the heavy burden the very wide coverage of the VAT places on poor people, covering funeral expenses and so on and thereby reducing the amount of money poor people have for basic survival. We will give serious consideration to reducing or removing such burdens.

An NNP government will give particular emphasis to the generation of economic activity in rural areas with particular focus on home and cottage industries. We know that if given the required inspirational leadership and support, our people are able to bring themselves out of poverty and in the process contribute to the economic development of their country. Our people are not lazy! No, they are not! What they lack now is the visionary leadership required to get them fully involved in economic activities.

We will not neglect the public sector. It plays a critical and pivotal role in the general administration of this country. Without a motivated, efficient and effective public sector, things will simply fall apart. Therefore the needs of the service and public servants will be given priority attention.

As part of the process of  broad consultation and the involvement of  the general population and the various interest groups, we will consult with the business community and the Trade Union Movement towards a progressive wages and incomes policy-one that will give due consideration to the needs of workers, while ensuring that investors and employers are not unnecessarily burdened.  In this regard, we will take steps to re-establish the Wages Council. It will serve as a forum for addressing such matters.

NNP will avoid the poor governance demonstrated by the divisiveness and infighting within this Government. We will give the country the kind of united and focussed leadership required at this time.

Fellow Grenadians, The situation I have described shows beyond any doubt that in the last three and a half years, our country has lost its way. It has moved from economic growth and development to a continuously worsening situation in which people are finding it more and more difficult to cope. At the same time, Government disunity and infighting have become the order of the day, bringing embarrassment to all of us, Victimization and spite have taken priority over the obligation to improve the lives of all Grenadians, regardless of political leanings, our country lost the respect that it once commanded in the regional and international community, many of our people, in particular our youth, have lost hope. We are in the wilderness. We need deliverance! And we need it sooner rather than later!

I therefore take this opportunity to call on the Government to at least acknowledge the increasing difficulties that are being faced by all our people- our workers and their families, our youth and students, our business community and others- and to stand up like all responsible Governments do, and shoulder its responsibility to find solutions, while admitting that in many cases, it is directly responsible for the situation since many of the problems we now face could have been avoided. After almost four years, the Government is still engaging in finger pointing.  If our country is to recover and move forward, the Government must put an end to this practise and instead focus on uniting the people to effectively address our problems.

In so doing, the Government must now fully engage the Parliamentary Opposition. This would of course require that it puts a stop to the politics of division, spite, hate, character assassination and political victimization and that it takes decisive corrective action to unite the nation in facing this unprecedented crisis.

The NNP stands ready, willing and able to contribute towards returning this country to peace, prosperity and good governance. We will join all patriotic Grenadians in fulfilling this solemn responsibility.

With the help of the Good lord and the united involvement and support of the people, the NNP stands ready to work towards securing a bright and prosperous future for all the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.

Thank you! AND MAY GOD BLESS US All!

 

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