There is some debate taking place in the country about the floating of a Social Fund proposal to help the poor and vulnerable by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in his 2021 Independence address to the nation.
THE NEW TODAY is sensing that the idea is being met with suspicion in some quarters in the country especially among trade union leaders who have developed a distrust of the Prime Minister in recent times.
The Social Fund is getting lukewarm response by some union leaders given the number of times that the Grenadian leader has “tricked” workers into believing that better days are coming for them under his administration.
The latest was the promise to restore Pension and Gratuity for public officers that was stopped during the 1979-83 rule of the People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late Prime Minister Maurice Bishop when it established the National Insurance Scheme (NIS).
The so-called planned revision of the Pension law attracted many civil servants to the cause of the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration of PM Mitchell in helping it to again emerge with a clean sweep of all 15 seats in the 2018 general election.
No sooner did the government win the elections, civil servants realised that they were duped, out-foxed and out-witted by the government on the formula that was being put forward to work out their pension for years of service.
The suspicion in some quarters is that the Social Fund will be used to ease the plight of mainly those who are known to be aligned to the ruling party.
Is this a new version of the Agency for Rural Development (ARD) that Dr. Mitchell unveiled after the ravages of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004 and was so abused along political lines in which some persons were employed at the staggering figure of $9000.00 to $21, 000.00 and more a month?
Within the public service, there is talk of “ghost payments” being made from the Ministry of Social Services to persons who do not exist but are getting from the little pittance on offer for the poor and vulnerable.
There is serious distrust in the society with the so-called “Social Partners” grouping as many of the leaders are known supporters and sympathisers of the regime now running the nation’s affairs from the Botanical Gardens at Tanteen, St. George.
The question which THE NEW TODAY is asking is the following – is there a need for a Social Fund for the poor given the millions earned by the Mitchell government through the sale of our passports to foreigners? Additionally, what has the government done with all this money that was collected?
The truth is that the government is channeling the proceeds from the sale of passports through the National Transformation Fund (NTF) and not even Parliament which should have oversight of the money is given an account of the fund and its usage over the years.
The only two persons who know anything about the depth of the fund are Prime Minister Mitchell and Finance Minister Gregory Bowen who are said in quarters to be the deciders beforehand of everything that is done by the Cabinet of Ministers.
The government is asking Grenadians to contribute to the Social Fund but is not living up to its own expectations on giving an account where spending from the national purse is concerned.
Why are the political opposition parties in the country not asking Prime Minister Mitchell to give a proper account of the cellphonegate scandal including the nearly one million EC dollars that remains unpaid from former Senator Sheldon Scott, a main pillar of the NNP Public Relations machinery?
Why is there no serious movement on recovering the EC$54.2 million dollars from the sale of Grenadian passports that disappeared from the failed Shrimp Farm project in Victoria, St. Mark?
There are reports that the main suspect in the so-called investigation was prepared to subject himself to a meeting with the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) but that it was postponed at the last moment. Are we really serious about this shrimp farm investigation?
The records will show that the government that has been exposed to and squandered the most money in Grenada since independence in 1974 is the said Mitchell-led NNP regime.
And the reality of the situation is that the monies have been spent on projects that have not been able to pay back for themselves and generate serious money for the Treasury.
The NNP projects cannot stand up alongside the Maurice Bishop International Airport (MBIA) and the creation of the NIS in only four-and-a-half years of rule by Bishop and his revolutionary government.
THE NEW TODAY is also making the bold statement that nothing done by Dr. Mitchell as the longest serving Prime Minister in the country is comparable to the visionary decision taken by the Father of Independence, the late Sir Eric Matthew Gairy to open the doors of the country to the American-owned offshore medical school that is known as St. George’s University.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, SGU had accounted for 25% of the Grenadian economy and provided a consistent livelihood to many in the country including local professionals in education, supermarkets, property owners, car rental companies among many others.
Current Prime Minister Mitchell has excelled only in the area of Statistics over the other leaders as he has won more general elections than any other, as well as the fact that none of them have been able to have a scoresheet with three clean sweeps at the polls.
Outside of this feat, there is nothing that Dr. Mitchell has been able to do in all these years at the helm that can stand alongside the likes of former Prime Ministers Gairy and Bishop – the two most charismatic and loved leaders by their supporters in this country.
It is unfortunate that our 2021 Independence celebration was used by the current Prime Minister to unveil his suspicious Social Fund that is being met with so much distrust among sections of the population.
Dr. Mitchell has only himself to blame as many in the country are not “buying into” his proposal as they fear that it will be abused with the main beneficiaries being his supporters like back in the days of Hurricane Ivan and with most other social programmes.
After 47 years as an independent state, the political division in the country under the current Prime Minister is similar to the period in the 1970’s leading up to the Grenada Revolution when the New Jewel Movement (NJM) took up arms and removed the Gairy government from power in St. George’s.
Grenada might have come a long way from February 7, 1974 but the island still has a long way to go towards a better day and life for each and every Grenadian regardless of their status in society especially political affiliation.