THE NEW TODAY would like to focus on the current situation between Grenada and its nearest Caricom neighbour which is St. Vincent & the Grenadines and their methods adopted in fighting the coronavirus.
These two islands that have been engaged in a bit of tit-for-tat especially among their leaders – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in St. George’s and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in Kingstown on the coronavirus crisis.
The two islands have leaders with different characteristics – Dr. Mitchell without any deep political philosophy and conviction except a hunger for power as opposed to Gonsalves who is full of charm, charismatic and a known leftwinger in the political arena.
The Vincentians have a seemingly more buoyant economy at the moment than Grenada since Gonsalves did not resort to draconian measures like the imposition of a State of Emergency as was done by Grenada’s Mitchell.
This newspaper was told that one of the major policy differences is that the Vincentian Prime Minister pursued a more scientific and pragmatic health approach than his counterpart in Grenada which is now going through more hardship on the ground level among the people.
Business activities in St. Vincent were not shut down and the island did not prevent anyone from coming into the country but enforced a health measure that all visitors will be subjected to the mandatory 14 day period of quarantine.
All the supermarkets and stores in St. Vincent remained open for shopping and there was no crowding but the government there issued regulations urging the people to engage in COVID-19 protocols like Social Distancing, hand sanitising etc.
The Vincentian boats were allowed to travel among the islands like Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago to engage in trade especially the export of agricultural products to earn foreign exchange for their island.
The government of St. Vincent has also not passed any edict for the churches and allowed them to make their own decisions on closure and re-opening based on a number of regulations.
It is our understanding that not one church in our neighbouring island was asked to apply for permission from the State to re-open its doors to worshippers.
Although St. Vincent was able to contain its positive COVID-19 cases for months, the situation is now changing drastically for the Gonsalves government due to the mass re-entry of cruise ship workers back home.
This is a lesson for us in Grenada and all other OECS member states that are currently facilitating the return to their shores of nationals working on cruise ships.
These islands have to remain on top of their game in the battle against COVID-19 in the face of recent experiences with what appears to be major testing issues.
It is happening around the world that some of the testing apparatus currently in use are coming up with too many false negatives and false positives that are creating fear and panic in the lives of many persons.
That issue apart, the Vincentians are now laughing at Grenada especially an announcement by the Mitchell government that it was willing to provide gas for the owners of a gas station that burnt down just over a week ago on Union Island.
The Prime Minister of Grenada and his government were quite amusing in their offer to help Union Island solve a problem when there are more problems of a far bigger nature to be addressed on Petite Martinique which is administered from St. George’s.
The Mitchell-led administration is trying to take scarce financial resources from Grenada to get involved in the business of a very small gas station that is reportedly owned and run by a family that is known to be more than financially comfortable.
And this offer from St. George’s is coming at a time when thousands of persons in Grenada are angry with the little pittance of just over EC$300.00 to be given to them in unemployment support by the State-owned National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
There are far more burning issues for the Mitchell regime to address at home like the plight of commuters to go to and from work and to carry out their business due to transportation problems than trying to score a cheap political point against Prime Minister Gonsalves who has demonstrated real leadership in the fight against the coronavirus than his counterpart in St. George’s.
St. Vincent’s economy is more robust and buoyant and is expected to record only minus 4% growth this year due to the virus as opposed to Grenada which is projected at minus 10%.
This offer of gas is just so foolish from the New National Party (NNP) administration at a time when gas station operators at home are reeling from the effects of the recent price drop of fuel on the island.
One small Gas station in the north has been forced to close because the operator can no longer afford to sustain the business.
All the gas station owners in Grenada are hurting financially at the moment but are too timid to speak up in their own defense as the drop in the commodity has hit them hard in their pockets.
These business operators purchased thousands of gallons of gas a few weeks ago from Sol and Rubis at a particular price and because the local economy is flat the recent drop in price as announced by the Department of Energy means that the gas that was purchased at a higher price is now being sold at a much lower rate.
Our businessmen have lost thousands of dollars in the gas business as a result of this single price drop effected by our government.
THE NEW TODAY is urging Prime Minister Mitchell and his government to stay out of the little gas station business on Union Island and address the plight of the gas station operators in Grenada, the dilemma among busmen and do not engage in a five second piece of cheap propaganda against Gonsalves and his government in St. Vincent.
It is no wonder that St. Vincent’s stature as a small OECS and Caricom state is rising internationally with the island now sitting on the prestigious body of the Security Council of the United Nations with a number of countries recognising the leadership of Comrade Ralph.