Commentary

Where’s the Relief?

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) empathizes with the workers in the tourism and other sectors who are not earning because those sectors remain closed, and who have been given no relief. We understand the need to be cautious in re-opening the country, but no good excuse has been given for why relief has not been forthcoming.

Four months have passed and the Prime Minister has not fulfilled his promise of payroll support to these workers. Some workers have received just one month’s relief and most have received none at all. That one payment made in May, was supposedly for the month of April.

The NDC notes that many workers depending on the promised 40% payroll support, are low income earners and among citizens who are just above, on and even below the poverty line. We therefore call on the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to give urgent attention to the plight of these workers and keep the solemn promise of relief made to them.

It is very inconsiderate and uncaring of Dr. Mitchell to have failed so miserably in honouring his commitment for May and June. To have paid some workers just for one month and others none at all, is a clear demonstration of this government’s scant regard for the plight of ordinary people once it is not election time.

The Government of Grenada reported that it received substantial funding from regional and international financial institutions to cover Covid-19 related expenditure. Such funds are usually given with preconditions to ensure that they go to those most in need and to avoid corruption by distribution along political party lines.

No details have been given on the source of these funds, the amounts received and the preconditions attached. Moreover, the Government has not reported on who have received relief so far, how much is left to be disbursed and the intended recipients.

The NNP is well known for its corrupt practices as a means of buying political support. These funds come in the form of loans to be repaid by us and future generations. Therefore, every effort should be made to ensure that they are used for the intended purposes in keeping with the preconditions laid down by the institutions supplying those loans.

To ensure transparency and accountability while avoiding corruption and misuse of resources, the NDC calls on the Prime Minister to give the nation a full and proper account of all monies received from external and other sources as relief as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, we call on the NNP administration to do the following:

  1. Publish Letters of Intent indicating that the monies are to be used for solving the current crisis and should not be diverted to other uses;
  2. Create a specific line item in the budgets of the respective ministries to allow for easy tracking and reporting of all expenditure;
  3. Publish monthly reports on Covid-19 related expenditure;
  4. Commit to undertaking the publication of quarterly independent audited reports on Covid-19 related expenditure;

In the face of such glaring failures by the Minister of Finance and his Government, it is quite disingenuous and indeed an insult to the business community and all our people, for his Ministry to issue a statement, blaming his failure to deliver on alleged fraudulent applications for relief. Is there is such an abundance of fraudulent applications that they are causing the whole system to grind to a halt? We will need proof of this!

For this gross insult to the people, Keith Mitchell must apologise. This is no different from when he called hospital workers incompetents and thieves.

Again, NDC calls on the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to cease the stalling and urgently make good on his government’s promise to the many workers who are hurting in this period of great hardship and mass unemployment.

(The above was submitted by the main opposition National Democratic Congress headed by former Education Minister Franka Alexis-Bernardine)

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