COVID-19 has severely wounded the economic policies being pursued by the current ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The main plank of the policy is the selling of Grenadian passports to raise revenue, promotion of Information Technology (IT) and tourism especially through the building of hotels from the proceeds of the Citizenship by Investment (CBI) Programme.
A recent report from the Washington-based World Bank has indicated that the coronavirus has flattened the economies of several Caribbean islands especially Grenada and St. Lucia which are expected to register growth rates of minus 7 plus% in 2020.
Grenada was once the envy of the Windward Islands in the 1970’s with its impressive economy based around solid returns to farmers from the sale of nutmegs, spices, bananas and cocoa.
Today, the island has been overtaken by St Vincent which is now a dominant player in terms of the supply of agricultural products on the Trinidad market.
The current situation is particularly embarrassing for Grenada whose Prime Minister has constantly been referring to solid economic growth on the island and that it was the fastest growing economy in the English-speaking Caribbean.
Less than a month of COVID-19 and the Grenadian economy has folded and collapsed to minus 7.3 percent in the region and even below that of Haiti which is known to be the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.
The reality of the situation is that if the coronavirus sticks around the world for the next 10 to 15 months the situation in Grenada will continue to be on the downward trend.
This newspaper is doubtful that the sale of passports will raise any significant sums of money for the island in the foreseeable future as world travel will be on the decline.
In addition, the building of hotels at this point in time will not be attractive as foreign investors will not be inclined to pour their money into an industry that is right now flat on its back.
THE NEW TODAY is very concerned about the thousands of locals who work in the tourism industry especially hotel workers and many of our top flight restaurants and eating places, as well as taxi drivers, and cruise ship vendors and water taxi operators.
The reality is that hoteliers will be under serious financial constraints to keep their doors open, pay salaries to workers and to pay bills especially the usual high cost of electricity each month.
The recent spat between Prime Minister Mitchell and his Vincentian counterpart Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has brought out in the open a very important issue concerning the economic policies being pursued by the two neighbouring islands.
Dr. Gonsalves is known to be totally opposed to the sale of Vincentian passports to raise money and has concentrated a lot on building the productive sectors of the economy especially the development of a strong agriculture sector to promote food security.
However, the current NNP regime of Dr. Mitchell has not paid much attention to agriculture and choose instead to gamble on the sale of passports, and wooing foreigners to build hotels with proceeds from the CBI.
The St. Vincent Prime Minister, an astute politician, was gloating and throwing jabs at Dr. Mitchell with his offer of providing food for Grenada’s two dependencies of Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
The hidden message from Comrade Ralph is that St. Vincent had pursued a policy of Food Security for its people while the NNP had spent the last 25 years on sinking sand with a platform for passport selling and wooing foreigners to build hotels.
During the next few weeks and months, the Mitchell-led government will be cash-strapped and would have to make many important decisions especially with respect to the already high wage bill in the country.
Several options will have to be put on the table for consideration – a possible wage cut for civil servants and a relook at the Imani programme.
As expected Prime Minister Mitchell will be forced to make the decisions with the next election in mind but he has very little or no options open to him at this point in time as the fullness or emptiness of the Treasury will be the determining factor.
The current situation looks very gloomy and bleak for Grenada unlike the Hurricane Ivan era when many countries around the world moved quickly and sent millions in assistance for Grenadians who were left flat on their knees and badly in need of assistance.
All the major economies in the world are now affected by the coronavirus and Grenada cannot expect to receive the kind of freeness that was available in the aftermath of the hurricane, as well as any preferential treatment as virtually all small countries will be looking for help from the richer countries around the world who would use the next few years to recover from the same virus.
THE NEW TODAY is convinced that COVID-19 has now brought home the message that Grenada has to change course in terms of its economic direction especially the need to pump millions more into the agriculture and health sectors.
2020 is a game changer on the island and the COVID-19 vaccine for Grenadians to take them out of this current dark period into a much brighter and stable future is a re-organisation of the economy along the lines of pursuing policies that can stand up to the most testing circumstances like hurricanes and pandemics like the coronavirus.