The New Today

Commentary

One year later: Grade “F”

After a lengthy campaign during which the incumbent shamelessly used State resources for electioneering purposes, Grenadians went to the polls on 13th March 2018.

As if misusing state resources were not enough, they made many promises that they never intended to keep.

Those promises included: that we were soon to reap the rewards of our shared sacrifice as the austerity measures of the Structural Adjustment Programme (“SAP”) came to an end; that the issue of pension and gratuity had been resolved and public officers could now rest comfortably in their retirement; that within months, the National Health Insurance (“NHI”) would be in place, giving coverage to every Grenadian; that “we have found oil!” and that meant plenty “moneey!”

All of those promises have since been exposed as bare tomfoolery.

In 2014, Government encouraged us to embrace the SAP for three years as part of the shared sacrifice to help stabilise the economy. The program included a request for a 50% haircut from creditors, the imposition of a wage freeze in the public sector and over 30 new and increased taxes. Six years on, and all the austerity measures remain in place.

There has been no reporting on the outcome of the requested haircut.

Instead, last week the Prime Minister told the media that Government’s lawyers are negotiating with the creditors’ lawyers for a waiver of interest and penalties on debts. Penalties only accrue on debts that are not serviced. Is it the case that Government caused us to sacrifice and suffer for 6 years, and is still not paying our debts?

Why is it that Mitchell is constantly refusing to tell us the amount of the national debt? Is it because it is much worse than when the SAP started?

Between 2008 and 2011, the NDC did much work on the NHI. Between 2013 and 2016, nothing was done to build on that work. With an election approaching, in early 2017 Emmalin Pierre promised that the NHI would be in place by June 2017. Nothing happened and by elections there was another promise that things were in place to roll out the NHI soon after elections. To date nothing has happened.

Meanwhile, our hospitals and healthcare services are the most deplorable they have ever been and morale among healthcare workers is at an all-time low. To add insult to injury, the PM went on an international stage and called doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers thieves and incompetents.

Perhaps the most egregious failure of the past year is the way Government is mishandling the pension and gratuity matter. After tricking the union leaders into signing a worthless MOU mere days before the elections, NNP reneged on its promises. They conned the union leaders and when public servants exercised their legal right to strike, heartless Mitchell and his Permanent Secretary friend, docked salaries in the Christmas season. His various mouthpieces then challenged public servants to “take the matter to court if they bad”.

The declaration of war on teachers and public officers is simply astounding. Rather than try to find some common ground, the administration has used the teachers’ work to rule protest as an opportunity to infuse political insularity into the school system and into sports.

There is a good reason why public workers are mocked and challenged to “take the matter to court”. It is that there are hardly any functioning courts. May 2019 will be one year since the complete collapse of the judicial system.

With the court system collapsed, we do not have a functioning Government. Mitchell as Minister of Finance has refused to allocate money to get this arm of Government functioning, so that the people can have access to justice. Public protest by the lawyers did not move the Government to act.

This complete lack of regard for the justice system was one of the reasons for the miserable failure of the CCJ Bill last November.

Another was Government’s arrogant refusal to build consensus around the Bill by paying heed to the views of the NDC, Bar Association and the TUC. Because of Mitchell’s arrogance, Grenadians could not embrace this regional institution.

Since elections, there has been silence on oil and gas. We expect a similar promise to be made come election 2023. The NDC cautions all Grenadians, that there will be no oil and gas money as long as Mitchell and Bowen remain in charge. They already gave away all our oil and gas resources by an unfair agreement with GPG on 31st March 2008 and they have reversed all the efforts the NDC made between 2008 and 2012, to secure a better deal.

Mitchell is well known for victimising and marginalising his opponents. However, one of the more troubling developments of the last year is the almost total control exerted over the media. With a collapsed judicial system and a media under siege, the people of Grenada must be aware that their most basic and fundamental rights and freedoms are under attack.

  The administration is unable to inspire and motivate workers so that the level of implementation of government projects is less than 50%.

Most projects are behind schedule, as excessive bureaucracy, party hacks passing off as technical personnel and low morale hamper national development.

Despite all the outlandish promises, poverty is on the rise and the youth are becoming more hopeless as opportunities become fewer. In the last budget speech, Mitchell admitted that 40% of Imani trainees have not completed their training. Many remain at home with no placement.

“Keep Moving” and “Vote Competence” were just empty campaign slogans.

Indeed the incompetence among this bunch has caused a dysfunctional government. By now, the reality must have set in, that running a glitzy campaign is quite different from running a successful government, because the failures of the past year are plain to see.

(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)