It’s one year since the National Democratic Congress (NDC), under its new leader 45-year old Attorney-at-law Dickon Mitchell stunned the New National Party (NNP) in general elections and captured the seat of power at the Botanical Gardens in Tanteen.
The Prime Minister on Wednesday night delivered a national television and radio address in which he highlighted some of the major achievements of Congress over the past 12 months in office.
Undoubtedly, the biggest achievement for the new administration was the decision to honour the ruling from the High Court and start to make pension payments to qualified public officers as promised in the campaign leading up to the June 23, 2022 general election.
The Prime Minister is fully aware that changes would have to be made to the payment of Pension in its current form as it might prove to be unsustainable over a long-term period.
The government on several occasions has stated in the public domain that there is a need for dialogue, discussion and negotiations with public sector unions and stakeholders on the need for Pension Reform.
When the constitution came into effect and made provision for pension payment for public officers, the number of employees on the books were manageable but over the years our politicians have used the civil service to provide jobs for “the boys and girls” in large numbers and creating problems for the Treasury to manage pension payments.
A casual look at the public service will see that it is too bloated and should be trimmed as much as possible as hundreds of workers are doing very little and short-changing the public when it comes to Value for Money.
THE NEW TODAY believes that the new Congress government should be commended for its achievements thus far in office and demonstrating to the former New National Party (NNP) that it lacked foresight in several areas.
One can point to the sister isle of Carriacou where the new Member of Parliament Tevin Andrew was able to make life easier for residents with the issue of the granting of stickers for the licensing of Vehicles and having its own resident Electrical Inspector to speed up the processing of approval of persons who are applying for electricity to their homes and businesses.
The NDC government can also feel proud of other campaign promises such as bimonthly salaries for public officers, as well as getting the British government to return about EC$70 million dollars from a package of nearly EC$92 million that almost slipped from the grasp of the former government of Keith Mitchell which failed to come up with the two projects to utilize the grant funds.
Congress should now begin the task of focusing on those critical things that need to be done in the coming year in order to consolidate its hold on power in the country and to keep the NNP at bay.
The Prime Minister in his capacity as Minister of National Security might have deliberately chosen not to use the National Address to deal with the rising criminal activities on the island especially among the youths with sharpened instruments and guns.
It is an issue that has to be addressed as a matter of urgency especially the influx of illegal guns into the country.
THE NEW TODAY is suggesting that a Special Fund be put in place at the Royal Grenada Police Force (RGPF) where any member of the public can get EC$1500.00 to $2000.00 if they provide information that can result in the recovery of each illegal firearm in the country.
This is not a novel idea as the Customs Department had used it successfully over the years to obtain information on a number of illegal activities taking place in the country especially in the area of contraband goods.
The person (s) who provided information which resulted in a successful raid by Customs Officers became richer at the expense of the public purse.
The NDC government will have to use the next 12 months to come to terms with the problem that is the public service and the lack of capacity and capability of persons holding key positions especially among the rank of Permanent Secretary.
The success of Tevin Andrew in the Ministry of Carriacou & Petite Martinique Affairs is due largely to the presence of a competent Permanent Secretary in the person of Javan Williams who understands the service and what needs to be done to be effective.
The Prime Minister should give serious consideration to relocating Mr. Williams to the mainland and placing him in the Ministry of Health to drive the process towards the building of a new Teaching Hospital for Grenada, Carriacou & Petite Martinique.
The NDC will start the campaign for the next election in poll position if significant progress is made on the hospital coupled with the political work that is needed at the party level to get another five years in office.
The plan for the next five years of Congress in government is to put together the team that can deliver on project after project in the coming year or two that can help to stimulate the economy and create more jobs and employment for the people.
The government has not had a very impressive record in the area of Foreign Affairs and cannot get a good mark in addressing the placement of foreign diplomats in key positions in many major capitals.
One year after the change of government, why is Ambassador Yolande Smith who campaigned for NNP in the 2022 general election still occupying the Grenada Office in the U.S capital of Washington?
During the 2008-13 period of government by NDC, the then Foreign Minister Peter David was able to have Ambassador Dessima Williams at the United Nations in a matter of a few weeks.
The previous Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell was also able to appoint and have installed all those Grenadian diplomats to serve in Washington and in New York.
The Prime Minister and his Congress team should also be mindful that the government can be successful in office but if the party is not positioned correctly for the next election the door still remains much open for the opposition to fancy its chances at the polls.
The NNP should not be under-estimated because if the party makes certain positive changes in the coming 12 months, it is easy for its machinery to be oiled once again and to put “boots on the ground” to try and position itself if the Congress boat is rocked for whatever reason.
The NDC margin of victory is just over 4000 votes and outside of three constituencies – St David, South St George and St George North-east and to a lesser extent St George South-east – the other victorious candidates will have to “up their game” to hold onto the seats.