Having pointed out the need to consider the lessons of the past and how it led to failure of the last NDC government, this article will attempt to briefly examine the economic and social headwinds that will challenge the new government in going forward as it attempts to implement its transformational agenda while reinforcing the need to get the transition right to ensure success.
The new government could not have inherited a more challenging global economic situation. Already severely impaired by a global pandemic which disrupted international supply chains, shut down key economic sectors, retard growth in income and advances in poverty reduction, global financial organisations are now predicting a recession by the end of the year.
The pending economic downturn could knock-out low income countries such as Grenada already staggering from the blow caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Managing Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieve said, “The global economic downturn will have a disproportionate impact on low income and emerging economies. They will take the hardest hit as they have less resources to protect themselves against this dual health and economic crisis”.
In addition to this gathering storm clouds, the new government faces an erosion of one of its main revenue earner the Citizen by Investment Program (CBI) due to pending legislation in the US Congress and European Parliaments. This could put further pressure on current account surpluses already forecasted to decline in 2023 and 2024 because of pension payments.
On top of a possible reduction in fiscal space the new government have to grapple with an expectant electorate, segments of whom will change their allegiance as quick as Williamson fire, high unemployment particularly among young people, inefficient healthcare service, poor and crumbling social and physical infrastructure, and a badly weakened and demoralised public service.
Closer examination of the public service during the rule of the former leader reveals an intentional effort to sideline and frustrate competent, experienced, senior managers such as Javan Williams, Aaron Francois, Ann Isaac and Jacinta Joseph in favour of hand-picked incompetent sycophants.
Those competent senior managers were placed in inconsequential ministries for most of his reign and in the rare instant when sent to one considered important, the experienced senior officer was placed on a leash while his handpicked sycophant was given more consequential duties as was the case in the Ministry of Health in the year leading up to the election.
Another act of the former leader was to systematically replace experienced and highly trained senior technical officers and middle managers with loyalists just out of university. This action was particularly evident in highly technical functions such as Economic Planning within the Ministry of Finance and other Ministries. The end result of his actions are a now depleted and demoralised public service.
Activists, supporters and sympathisers of the NDC must ask the question of the transition team, can this team of incompetent, inexperienced sycophants successfully implement the transformational agenda of the new government?
According to a well-placed source in the know, almost all of the major projects in the last seven years that were or is currently being implemented were designed, prepared and funding approved by international donors under the last NDC government, from St. Patrick’s Road Rehabilitation to the ongoing St. John’s River Flood Mitigation Project, the Secondary Schools Rehabilitation Project and that much talked about La Borie main road under the Agricultural Feeder Roads project.
During the last seven years those handpicked, inexperienced sycophants placed in these technical functions were not able to get any major project approved for even the ongoing Airport Expansion and Point Saline to St. George’s Road Rehabilitation Project, I was told, had its genesis during the last NDC government.
What is even more troubling because of inordinate delays in implementation by these sycophants, after the experienced and highly technical officers were marginalised by the former leader, many of these projects including the St. John’s River Flood Mitigation project lost funding from the international donor agency and are now being financed from central government revenues.
Supporters of the new government, ‘NDC Massive’, must ask the question loud and clear – why would the transition team entrust implementation of the new government’s transformational agenda to these failed sycophants?
Kem Jones, the influential Talk Show host in one of his recent programs highlighted huge excesses in a number of contracts for security and cleaning services held by NNP cronies. Many of those contracts were signed by these same NNP sycophant senior managers or Permanent Secretaries that are now being placed in important Ministries that can make or break the new government.
Mid-level officers in the public service who witnessed how these sycophant, and Permanent Secretaries facilitated and in some cases directed them to draw up those contracts are upset that these people appear to be rewarded for their malfeasance. NDC massive – is this what you voted for?
Kem Jones is right to call for the draining of the swamp which must happen among complicit senior managers as well.
The persons who are defending these sycophants must take a closer look at their performances in certain Ministries. Consider the Ministry of Infrastructure Development during the time of one of the sycophants now tooted around as a hard worker by some members of the transition team where all of the major projects were in a state of limbo and unable to move forward for a long time riddled with implementation problems.
One can’t forget the length of time it took the Market Square and St. Patrick’s Road Rehabilitation projects to come on stream. Neither can the poor workmanship on the La Borie main road be overlooked.
The question is – who was the Permanent Secretary in that Ministry when these projects became beset with problems including hiring of substandard consultants and contracts written up with loopholes and clauses that heavily favoured contractors causing government to lose millions of dollars and equipment and vehicles that were supposed to be turned over to government on project completion and left in the hands of certain contractors?
Is this competence? Is this the performance that are being advanced by some on the transition team? Did they not listen to the comments of the former leader when he made changes at the helm of that ministry last year?
The amount of contracts with excesses in that ministry is mind-bloggling yet this sycophant is rewarded with a function that is responsible for mobilising resources under important global thematic areas.
As one NDC activist asked the question recently – is this sycophant being rewarded because of beholdened friendships with certain persons?
According to the activist referring to the words of Moss International seminal hit song, Jambalasee Rule, “you vote, you doh vote same dam thing”. Drip by drip these comments are beginning to surface which can spell trouble for the new government when the honeymoon is over, if the swamp is not drained.
A very basic classification would have some ministries mainly responsible for maintenance of ongoing government operations while others are mostly concerned with capital projects of a developmental nature.
It is the latter ministries such as Economic Development, Infrastructure Development, Agriculture, Health, the Environment that would primarily be responsible for implementing the government’s transformational agenda, yet these ministries are led by sycophants of the last government or senior managers considered weak. Isn’t this setting up the government to fail?
This is exactly why more and more NDC activists and supporters are becoming restless and edgy as they continue to see those who facilitated the dirty works of the defeated regime in positions where they can turn around and frustrate the new government as was done in the past.
Supporters who are ready to take to the streets to advocate for draining the swamp should wait until after carnival, let’s see how long the transition team and those at the seat of power would continue to be tone deaf to the will of the people for change.
With global economic storm clouds gathering and the looming threat to the CBI program on the horizon, the design of the senior management team is perplexing to say the least particularly when one looks at challenges ahead to reinvigorate the public sector investment program, turn ideas in the sustainable development plan into programs and projects, and align them with international donors programmatic priorities to leverage funding from international donors.
The question is – does the current senior management team and senior technical staff have the capabilities to do so? If one took a closer look at the last seven years in the public service the answer to the question is no.
With all the past pronouncements on availability of hundreds of millions of dollars under climate change, green economy and blue economy, has Grenada been able to maximise its possibilities to access funding from these global multilateral arrangements?
This will be crucial going forward once the fiscal responsibility act is reinstated and should legislative initiatives in North American and European capitals to curtail CBI programs are successful.
Almost all the major projects recently or currently implemented were projects developed under the last NDC government. Would the current composition of the senior management and technical team be able to spearhead this most important effort, if most of them don’t have the capacity to do so?
Considering the relatively inexperienced Cabinet of Ministers and the clustering of ministries, the current design and composition of the senior management staff is not intended to set up the new government for success.
In light of the experience of the past two NDC governments and the will of a majority of the electorate, the transition team must give further and earnest consideration to the make-up of the senior management and technical team if this new government is to succeed.
Supporters who were denied housing materials, access to SEED and jobs for seven years, victimised and overlooked just because they were deemed to be NDC, whose children were not given scholarships and ridiculed by NNP supporters and observed first-hand how these sycophants did the bidding of the defeated NNP government would not want to return to those old days and would stop at nothing to make sure the momentum of the elections and will of the people don’t dissipate in thin air.
Let the people’s voices be heard and give them the change they voted for by designing the administration to succeed and not fail.