On 27th February 2017 a glitzy ground-breaking ceremony was held in St. Mark’s to launch the Grenada Sustainable Aquaculture (GSA). The project was to establish an organic shrimp farm that promised much needed employment in one of the most depressed parishes.
According to GSA’s website, the project was to create “more than 400 new local jobs”, some of which were to be highly skilled, that would give young people educational opportunities at the university level.
Naturally, many Grenadians welcomed this development because St. Mark’s deserves a break. This was not the first time the people of St. Mark’s were promised a major project that would bring them employment and economic benefits.
In 2003, a poultry farm was to be established in St. Mark’s, an initiative of private Grenadian investors to which Government was later invited in a public/private partnership. After our Grenadian investors did all the preparatory work and secured the US$6.9 million needed to start operations, the NNP stooges were allowed to swoop down, grab all the money and ‘run wid it’.
The investors were robbed of their money and the people of the promised opportunities. An investigation was not launched into that project. Is it because they knew exactly who swiped the US$6.9m? The money was never paid back. The taxpayers of our country did.
A twisted joke was played on the people of St. Mark’s because the failed shrimp farm was to be established on the same lands where the poultry farm was to be located. Worse yet, those are fertile lands that once contained hundreds of bearing cocoa trees. Had the people of St. Mark’s not been duped twice, those lands could today be supplying cocoa to Diamond and other chocolate factories on the island.
At the launch of GSA, Dr. Claris Modeste-Curwen, MP said that the project was to be funded in part by the Government of China. Mr. Dennis Antoine, Grenada’s then Ambassador to China made remarks. GSA’s website indicates that the Government of Grenada and the “principals” of GSA were to jointly invest $20 million of the $39 million needed for the project.
Government must now tell us how much of our monies were invested in this failed project. What amount the Government of China contributed. This fiasco runs the risk of not just once more bringing our country’s name into disrepute, but this time, dragging the name of at least one friendly country into the dirt.
The Prime Minister also said that he was an investor in the project so people “should not worry”. Why should people worry? It was as though Mitchell knew since then, that the whole thing was a sham so he said those words to appease people who may have been sceptical given the NNP’s past history of doing business with crooks, conmen and fraudsters.
Did the PM know or suspect since then that this was going to flop? Surely, with all his experience, he should be able to spot the crooks from a distance.
The troubling thing for the NDC is that based on our research, the people behind GSA, do not appear to be fraudsters of the ilk of EJ Miller & Charles Liu of the Mt. Hartman Project, Robert Oveson of the Levera Project, Eric Resteiner, the briefcase man or Van Brink of First International Bank; just to name a few of NNP’s fraudster ‘investors’.
Furthermore, we are yet to hear from the principals of GSA, however, Mitchell has taken in front, announced the investigation and suggested that the investors have made off with people’s money.
Based on Mitchell’s pronouncements, the integrity of our CBI program is questionable. It means that proper due diligence is not being done on applicants. Liu and Oveson also promoted CBI projects. How can Mitchell be only now asking for help from regional and international agencies to investigate these people who he, his ministers and diplomats paraded with and told us were legit? Isn’t that putting the horse before the cart once more?
We need complete transparency on this one. Who are the investigators? What are their terms of reference? How long is the investigation to last? Which regional and international agencies are we asking for assistance? Make the findings public. It is time for Mitchell and his pack to stop treating Grenadians as though we are all stupid. Come clean. Stop with the dirty games.
(The above reflects the views of the main opposition National Democratic Congress)