This nearly EC$185 million loan taken out by the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government for use at the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) is causing grave concern among the population.
THE NEW TODAY can understand these concerns in light of the prevailing situation in the country when the government own finances have taken a serious hit due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Number One pre-occupation of Grenadians at this time is the health of the nation and in particular the quality of medical care available at the St. George’s General Hospital especially in the coronavirus atmosphere.
There are those who believe that a large chuck of this money would be better spent on health at this point in time as opposed to the airport given the global downturn in world travel in the tourism industry.
The Chinese have boasted of building a brand new hospital in three days as part of their own Covid-19 preparation and some of our people are looking forward to them doing the same for Grenada.
Our Tourism & Civil Aviation Minister, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen did not help the government cause in trying to sell the MBIA project to Grenadians when she did not supply any serious data on the island’s ability to repay the Chinese debt.
The rather simplistic utterance of this longstanding Minister and Member of Parliament for St. Mark is that the money will be repaid by “The Grace of God”.
This minister seems to forget that Grenada is now indebted to WRB Enterprises, the Florida-based company to the tune of EC$200 million and growing daily in interest on the GRENLEC judgment following the ruling of the International Tribunal.
The Prime Minister has stated publicly that the island does not have the money to pay WRB to buy back the 50% shareholding of WRB in Grenlec.
So, it begs the question – how will the Grenada Airport Authority (GAA) and by extension MBIA be able to repay that Chinese loan?
THE NEW TODAY is also concerned about government’s timing to execute the loan.
This is not a new loan agreement as it was announced a few years ago that the Chinese had agreed to give the money to finance the project.
This newspaper suspects that the decision to utilise the loan at this current time is also linked to the upcoming general election which could be held as early as Mid-2021.
The ruling party could be looking at the project to obtain the bulk of its finances for electioneering purposes given the culture of the Chinese.
The return of Joan Gilbert to manage the airport following the demise of General Manager Wendy Francette-Williams is rather interesting.
It is known in certain quarters that Gilbert was in the “dog house” politically and her re-emergence can be a signal that the Prime Minister is bringing back the “old guards” to the fold for the upcoming election battle.
Anyone who has knowledge of Dr. Mitchell will know that his mantra has always been “all hands on deck” whenever he is ready to ring the election bell.
THE NEW TODAY is also suspicious that the expansion of the MBIA could also be of strategic importance to China in its geo-political super power rivalry with the United States for world domination.
The Chinese are increasingly looking at ways to get deeper and deeper into Latin America for their goods and services.
Strategically, the airport in Grenada can provide an alternative to the Chinese to reroute their planes and avoid using the United States as the stopover point from Beijing into many Latin American countries.
The development of MBIA with its upgrade can provide another alternative to the Chinese to fly from Beijing into St. George’s, refuel and then take-off again into Latin America.
Finally, THE NEW TODAY is urging the Chinese to be more sensitive in their dealings with our people and refrain from sending certain strange signals.
A case in point is the Ground-breaking ceremony held on Wednesday for the Upgrade and Rehabilitation of MBIA when it was visible to many that the airport was being referred to as “St. George’s Airport”.
This is a very sensitive internal political issue in Grenada among those who struggled for years since 1983 for the airport to be named after the Revolutionary Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop and those who opposed the idea.
This is a domestic matter and the Chinese have to be more careful and refrain from using lose terms when it comes to MBIA.
It is not the intention of this newspaper to give credence to those who hold the view that the current government is engaging the Chinese in a manner that Grenada runs the risk of becoming “a full colony” of Mainland China as how Taiwan is being viewed.