The Grenada Development Bank (GDB) originates from the 1965 Grenada Agricultural Bank and transits the Grenada Agricultural and Industrial Development Corporation which took enhanced functional dimensions, during the March 1979 to October 1983 People’s Revolutionary Government, with People’s Law No. 33 of 1980 (CAP. 129, 2010 Revised Laws).
It aims to foster the Economic Development of the nation by giving financial and technical assistance to interested and qualified individuals in key thematic areas, typically as identified and prioritised by the Government.
The Minister of Finance has the Power to give approval for the “development enterprises” to be considered by the Bank, and to give directions and make regulations concerning this Independent Statutory Institution, including the appointment of a Board of Directors with responsibility for general policies and administration and for preparing financial statements and pertinent reports with recommendations to be laid before the House of Representatives.
The GDB must be considered, promoted and demonstrated as the ‘sovereign bank’ of Grenada, meaningfully serving and responding to the educational and social aspirations and the entrepreneurial potentials and determinations of the local citizenry, as well as strategically boosting the implementation thrusts and sustainable projections of the Government.
The GDB could be analogous to the 1969/1970 Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) whose purpose is to contribute “to the harmonious economic growth and development of member countries in the Caribbean …. having special and urgent regard to the (financial) needs of the less developed members”.
It is critical to comprehend though that the nature and role of the GDB are distinct from that of the local commercial banks which are occupied with ‘profit-grabbing’.
Those other banks are not sympathetic and conducive for the welfare and advancement of the average citizen and for expanding and transforming the national economy; although ‘some credits’ can be given for the contributions and partnerships in such fields of sports, education and charitable projects.
Further to the power of the Minister of Finance to make regulations for the GDB as prescribed by the GDB Act (CAP. 129), the Bank is administered by the Grenada Authority for the Regulation of Financial Institutions (GARFIN) in accordance with the GARFIN Act (CAP. 125A); but it is mindboggling that GARFIN does not have jurisdiction over the commercial banks.
It is worthwhile specifying also that GDB is a quasi-bank since it does not deal with the full slew of ‘normal banking expectations’ such as saving accounts, foreign exchange, credit card services, wire transfers and financial investments.
The central activity of the GDB is about mobilising, coordinating and making available resources, on behalf of the Government, for ‘sovereign projects’, with the vision “to be the leading provider of development financing in Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”.
The critical issue, however, at this point in time since the existence of the Bank, is about its accomplishments and impacts, and the extent of its assistance amongst the masses.
The GDB operates in the public service domain providing soft and concessionary terms on loans, whilst commercial banks operate as private sector entities optimising returns for its shareholders in a virtually ‘Government-unregulated and non-competitive’ environment, with an ‘unimpressive and worrying’ Banking Act (CAP. 26A/ACT NO. 20 of 2015).
Should the Government pursue a policy of transforming the GDB into a public-private partnership, especially when considering the tremendous institutional affiliates which the Bank enjoys and the ready availability of development funding by international organisations and governments?
Some of the steady pillars and active players in the performance of GDB include the CARICOM Development Fund, Eastern Caribbean Home Mortgage Bank, Petro Caribe, Green Climate Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank.
Grenada’s National Transformation Fund also should be an investing source, and it should be expected that GDB has been preparing to capitalise on the August 2023 opening of the Representative Office in the Caribbean of the African Export and Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK), particularly in relation to set enterprises of ‘local manufacturing for export trade’.
Young people, school-leavers and the less fortunate, in their pursuits of achievements should never be allowed to be exposed to the ‘severity, frustration and profiteering’ which features “Doing Business” with the commercial banks.
Those ‘unestablished and vulnerable’ groups of citizens cannot compete with the affluent and privileged, including foreign investors, in meeting the requirements of the local banks and for enabling and protecting successful enterprises.
Although the Co-operative Credit Union Movement is being celebrated as the viable alternative to the commercial banks on benefits from deposits and some financial services, the GDB should be the reasonable financial means for the masses to explore, execute and excel in business-ventures and to achieve self-actualisations.
Moreover, the GDB should be used as a powerful catalyst to inspire in the people a culture of investing in and undertaking businesses, rather than to be entrapped by the dictates of the banks and the uncertainties in the wide international financial market.
There is the outstanding need for the GDB to be clearly engrained in the psyche of, and be sufficiently accessible to all strata of Grenadians throughout the nation, and for its offerings and opportunities not to be of benefits to mainly politically-connected individuals.
There is also the corresponding need for the GDB to boost its resource capacity, its banking services, its range of development enterprises and loan portfolios, and its delivery efficiency or application approvals.
Those compelling demands should be reflected and realised in the hinted Transformation Agenda of GDB, as well as that of the 23 June 2022 Administration of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The 2021 Annual Report contains that GDB will focus to “significantly transform its operations over the next 5 years in order to create an even greater impact on the nation’s economy …. critical elements of the Bank’s transformation are behavioural change, technological advancement and operational process improvements to better serve and influence the lives of beneficiaries …. while increasing its alignment with the government’s long-term objectives”.
Also, GARFIN in its 2021 Annual Report that GDB noted that it had submitted to Cabinet, a draft (amendment) Bill to its Act (CAP. 129), seeking to “expand the functions of the Bank, to authorise the Bank to issue shares and accept certain types of deposits from customers as well as strengthen its governance”. But….?
Should the GDB be targeted in the general pursuit of the NDC’s Administration, as presented in the 2023 National Budget Statement by the Prime Minister?
That is – “Government will actively pursue private sector involvement in improving the operational and financial performance of all state bodies in the delivery of quality services”?
What is the real ‘intent and orientation’ of the Administration for the GDB, when also considering that the Bank’s 2021 Report reveals that it experiences “operating profits” and was able for the 6th consecutive year to make “payment of dividends to the Government of Grenada”, and had achieved its “highest Net Profit and Return on Average Assets of all time”.
Moreover, the same 2023 Budget reveals that GDB had a positive performance with an unaudited surplus of $1.1 million for the first nine months of 2022, albeit the lingering economic disturbances from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Improvements in the operational and financial performance of the GDB in the delivery of quality services could be achieved by qualifying the Bank as the central agency for information about funding and training for socio-economic projects, and by fostering collaboration of the Bank with pertinent Government agencies such as the Housing Authority of Grenada and the National Insurance Scheme in addressing the demands for Home Mortgages and with the Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC) in facilitating Business Support.
Furthermore, it should be considered appropriate for the GDB to schedule as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, a yearly Open House program which is geared at the graduates of academic and vocational institutions, on the prospect for loans towards business and education.
Emphatically, functional relationships need to be established between GDB and the various training configurations such as New Life Organisation (NEWLO), T.A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC), National Training Agency (NTA) and Government’s apprenticeships (IMANI, etc.); as well as with the various community-based and sectorial organisations such as the Agency for Rural Transformation (ART).
Holistic policies and integrated efforts are imperatives in resolutely attacking the socio-economic challenges facing the nation, and undoubtedly the GDB should display a ‘proactive and robust’ stance in that respect.
The gravity of the situation, particularly involving “youth at risk” and the liability of the society to ‘crime and decline’, demands the attention of the GDB, in conjunction with the ministerial departments which are responsible for Labour, Social, Community and Youth Affairs.
It is expected that the GDB should also be activated and guided by Grenada’s National Sustainable Development Plan 2020-2035.
Pertinently, the Plan highlights thus: “…. A comprehensive youth employment and empowerment strategy must be developed to promote sustainable youth entrepreneurship (start-up capital and other technical support), as well as address both the supply-side of the labour market (doing more to prepare young people for the workplace) and the demand-side (ensuring that more job opportunities are created).”
It went on to say: “…. As students graduate, they would be more inclined to start their own businesses, using innovative and creative ideas to develop new products and services.”
“The notably increased levels of youth conflict, violence, and deviant behaviours, cement the need to inculcate educational and cultural values in students with a view to transforming them into more productive and purposeful citizens …. ”.
A relevant aspect which is apparently ‘grossly’ lacking within the role of the GDB is its assistance, through the official channels and protocols, in apprising and liaising with the locals concerning educational and entrepreneurial events which are organised and advertised regionally and internationally.
How does Grenada rate in the Caribbean region for participating and benefitting in such grand ‘industrial fora and emerging networks?
It should be of great interest to know for example, how many Grenadians have been aware and have applied regarding the 18 August 2023 OECS Media Release.
That is; “The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, in partnership with Draper University and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is launching a startup accelerator program targeting up to 200 technology and technology enabled MSMEs in the OECS for intense and world class training, mentorship and technical assistance.
The program aims to empower visionary MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) and startups within the OECS region by providing them with access to world-class mentorship, resources, with the opportunity for an immersion experience in renowned Silicon Valley”.
The GDB had undertaken a five-year Strategy Plan 2017-2021 to “better connect with the people …. create a more positive financial and socio-economic impact …. improving the viability and sustainability of the Bank”.
Despite this claim – was the move ‘appropriate and adequate’ to register profoundly the Bank’s visibility and image? Is there any conspicuous, significant and permanent project or mark of GDB?