Wonders never cease and in this regard, age has a distinct benefit. As ole people say, “the longer you live the more you will see and hear, if you have eyes and ears to see and hear and want to see and hear!!” This is what I thought when I heard the Hon. Gregory Bowen, Minister of Finance, Energy and “Other Things” at last Tuesday’s Post Cabinet Briefing. I also thought that “the wonder” would be lost on the mostly youthful press corps because they did not have any MEMORY!!
- Raising Awareness of Happenings
The Minister of Finance advised that he came to raise the awareness we the people on the happenings of the Russia-Ukraine war. He noted the increase in international fuel prices, the impact that the increase would have on Grenada – the increased price at the pump, the measures that Government might implement to mitigate the impact of the increased prices and how the measures would affect Government finances.
Government tax revenue would take a hit. He made several references to the “volatility” of fuel prices from December 2021 to the current period.
The Minister said “shock after shock” was impacting the economy – COVID-19 pandemic followed by the Russian-Urkaine war. He PONTIFICATED:-
- We need to manage the finances prudently!
- Money has to come from the state coffers, YOUR money………..
- PLAN your life accordingly………
- PLAN your expenditure accordingly
- How long will government take to recover?
- Nobody knew before!
- NNP Election Campaign 2003
So why do I consider Hon. Bowen’s utterings “a wonder”? You see, I recall the 2003 election campaign. The parties in opposition expressed concerns about the rising level of debt and Grenada’s ability to repay. Grenada was a small, open economy, vulnerable to external shocks. Min. Boatswain was implementing a strategy of “borrowing here to pay there”! It was not so long ago that Grenada had undertaken a voluntary structural adjustment programme, 1991-1994.
We the people recall, “we did ketch real hell”. In 2001, there was the shock of the 9/11 event – the bombing of the Word Trade Centre and its impact on the economy of the region, particularly tourism. And in 1999, even though Grenada did not experience a direct hit from Hurricane Lenny, the storm surges wreaked significant damage on our west coast, particularly on the roads.
Who can forget the extraordinary sight of waves breaking over the NIS building on Melville Street in St. George’s or how the waves flooded the hotels on Grand Anse beach?
- Not the Size of the Debt
The then Minister of Finance, Hon. Anthony Boatswain, dismissed the concerns of the POLITICAL JOKERS. He boasted, “it is not the size of the debt, is the ability to pay!” And who can forget Hon. Gregory Bowen??!! He told we the people, “Gas and oil will pay the national debt several times over!!” That was in 2003!
What has happened since – Hurricane Ivan in 2004; the financial, fuel and food crisis of the 2007 – 2011 period; Minister Boatswain and the NNP administration undertaking a structural adjustment programme in 2006 (structural reform they called it – rescheduling debt and agreement re “step-up” payments annually; Jack Grynberg taking Grenada to court over its arrangements with Global Petroleum Group (that is how we the people heard the news about oil and gas in Grenada) ? Has Hon. Bowen, now the Minister of Finance, Energy and other things become more enlightened? For real?
- What Has Happened to Gas and Oil:
Whatever happened to gas and oil that would “pay the national debt many times over”? What has happened to Grenada’s oil and gas in this time when we need it? Let us review the situation from March 2018 to present:-
- March 12th, 2018: On the eve of the 2018 elections at his massive rally, the Political Leader of the NNP and Prime Minister told his supporters, “Sisters and brothers, one Well, we have several more wells which are even more exciting than the one they just found. In other words, Grenada can be a massive supplier of oil and gas”.
- April 6th, 2018: “NGC is pleased to announce that the Company has finalised a commercial agreement with Global Petroleum Group (GPG) operating in Grenada.”
- October 31st, 2018: “Energy Minister, Gregory Bowen, said that the Russian-owned Global Petroleum Group (GPG) had run into financial problems after the first drilling and could not continue the exploration for more wells. But he said the company has since entered into a partnership with a Chinese company.”