THE NEW TODAY would like to focus on a statement made on a local media outlet this week by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Oliver Joseph on the loan contracted with the Exim Bank of China to facilitate the upgrade and rehabilitation work at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) at Point Salines.
The senior government minister stated that the loan was taken by the Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) and not the Government of Grenada currently led by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
This seems to be a veiled attempt by Minister Joseph to tell Grenadians that this loan from a Chinese-government owned bank is not a burden on the taxpayers of the country and a substantial increase in the national debt but that of the airport authority.
This newspaper is very suspicious of the statement without seeing the contents of the agreement and the terms and conditions of the loan.
There is a serious role for the Leader of the Opposition, Tobias Clement to ask some questions in the Lower House about the loan and to call for the agreement to be laid in Parliament.
It is only a peep inside the agreement that will provide the answers to a number of questions that need to be answered on the loan agreement and its possible implications for the country.
For starters, can GAA on its own and without the blessings and permission of the Parliament of Grenada contract a loan of such magnitude in the order of EC$185 million from a government-owned bank in China?
The other important issue is what is being used to guarantee this Chinese loan for use by the airport? Did the government guarantee this loan?
THE NEW TODAY recalls the situation with loans from Taiwan to the government of Grenada and the reaction from Taipei to move a court in New York to put a garnishee order on monies from a number of State-owned bodies like the Airports Authority and the Grenada Port Authority (GPA) in an effort to recover their monies.
These state-owned bodies did not take out any loans with the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan but their funds were targeted to repay the outstanding millions that Grenada owned to the Taiwanese.
So if MBIA defaulted on the EC$185 million loan from Exim Bank of China, will the State not have to step in and pay-off the outstanding monies. In such a situation, the taxpayers of the country will be the ones burdened by this loan from the Exim Bank of China?
It is quite obvious that the assets of the airport are not sufficient enough for the Chinese to seize in a case of default on this huge loan.
In addition, some past executives at MBIA have reported that GAA itself does not own the lands on which the airport is situated but that it is vested in the Government of Grenada.
It is important that Mr. Clement who is now turning out to be the saviour for our democracy in Parliament to use his office and extract the answers from the Prime Minister, Minister of Finance or the Line Minister for the airport, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen on the loan.
There is too much piecemeal information coming out from the government on this Chinese loan for use by MBIA and not a detailed and comprehensive statement giving out all the facts on the agreement.
THE NEW TODAY would also like to commend Mr. Clement on his presentation in Parliament on Monday in responding to the 2021 Budget as delivered by new Finance Minister, Gregory Bowen.
The events surrounding the 2-hour address by the Leader of the Opposition have overshadowed the EC$1.2B budget of government since Mr. Clement was able to get the nation to focus on him and not on the contents of the figures contained in the document pertaining to fiscal year 2021.
It was a masterpiece pulled off by the Opposition Leader by chaining himself to his seat in order to defy the manner in which the Speaker of the House, Michael Pierre was seeking to violate the Standing Orders of the House by allotting him only 1 hour and not the 2 hours in responding to the Minister of Finance.
There are those in our midst who continue to peddle a lot of foolishness and garbage that Mr. Clement crossed the floor as part of some sinister plot or ploy involving Prime Minister Mitchell to maintain the NNP stranglehold in Parliament.
The NNP hierarchy including the Prime Minister was left rather embarrassed over the incident with Mr. Clement in Parliament in the past week.
THE NEW TODAY calls on the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to demonstrate maturity and re-engage the Opposition Leader on the position that he offered a few months ago for one of their own to occupy a seat in the Senate.
It was a serious mistake and blunder made by the NDC leadership not to accept the invitation that would have provided them with a voice in Parliament after two 15-0 losses at the polls which left them without an official voice in Parliament for the past 7 years.
Mr. Clement is showing signs that he is prepared to keep democracy alive in Grenada and the NDC and others should step forward in helping in the fight to ensure that Grenada does not become a one-party state under the so-called “Project Grenada” banner as pushed by relics of the 1979-83 RMC era and a Prime Minister who is very power thirsty.
The NNP is beatable in elections but it has to be done through serious political work and organisation of the forces as the conditions are ripe in the country for change given the level of disgruntlement heard on the ground.