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Tourism, misbehaviour and COVID-19

The GBN evening newscast of Friday, November 20th featured the Honourable Ministers, Clarice Modeste and Norland Cox at different town hall meetings:-

  • Min. Modeste at a town hall meeting in St. John’s, pontificating about misbehaviour and the rising incidences of COVID-19 cases in Grenada;
  • Min. Cox at a town hall meeting at the Grenada Trade Centre Annex on Thursday, November 19th , advising of the relocation of the Fire Services headquarters to the old police garage on Dusty Highway. It was being relocated to the tourist centre in the south; offering critical services to protect investments in the South.

I listened aghast and concluded that our Ministers of Government had taken leave of their senses. Who elected them to office? Whose interest was paramount?

  1. Misbehaviour and the Rising Incidence of COVID-19 Cases:

Based on the news item, Min. Modeste looked at the people gathered for the town hall meeting in St. John’s in the “poke of dey eye” and accused we the people of being responsible for the increase in the incidences of COVID-19 in Grenada because of our recklessness and misbehaviour.

She hinted/threatened(?) lockdown measures, if people do not do what they are supposed to do. She advised that in order for tourism to start creeping back, we have to have “strict compliance” with all of the protocols we have been given in order to minimise transmission.

According to Min. Modeste:-

  • Stretching Capacity: People’s reckless behaviour was stretching Grenada’s capacity to the maximum – the health workers; the police and private security were mentioned. This misbehaviour was creating even more hardships to the persons contacted by those persons exhibiting reckless behaviour. She identified workers in the tourism industry as being particularly affected.
  • Stoppage of Flights: Flights could stop coming into the country.
  • Cruise Tourism: Cruise tourism remains on hold.

Well, I could not believe “mi ears”!! Because Min. Modeste’s statements were all CONTRARY to the facts of which we the people were aware.

  1. Rising Incidences of COVID-19:
  • Opening of External Borders/Imported Cases: Grenada’s new COVID-19 cases are all directly linked to the imported cases, as a result of the opening of the external borders.
  • The new local cases were the result of persons being in contact with the imported cases.
  • Reckless Behaviour: Who has demonstrated reckless behaviour? Based on the reports appearing in the news:-

–   one individual, a Grenadian who came from abroad, left quarantine before receiving his results and being officially discharged;

–   a couple, a doctor and his wife, with a residence in Grenada, BROKE their quarantine and over the period visited FOUR restaurants thereby putting the staff at these places at risk. It has also been reported that they were not fitted with the tracking device because the instruments that were supplied by the “mysterious” supplier were faulty.

  1. Who is at fault?
  • All over the world, as external borders opened, there have been spikes in the incidence of COVID-19. In some countries as quickly as borders opened, the country has had to shut the borders and impose lock-down measures.
  • Airline Flights: British Airways has been grounded. UK is one of Grenada’s important tourism source markets and a source of Grenada’s COVID-19 infections as well. So how could   BA’s decision to stop flights into Grenada (a result of COVID-19 measures imposed by the UK) be a consequence of the misbehaviour of we the people?
  • Cruise Ship Tourism: Cruise ships were identified as being “hot beds” of   COVID-19 infection. So the “smart” plans of the Grenada Tourism Authority to “reserve” beaches and attraction sites – NO INTERACTIONS WITH LOCALS DESIRED – to facilitate the expected calls of the two ships fell flat on the face, given that the cases of COVID-19 identified on one of the ships which cut short its itinerary and therefore did not come to Grenada.
  1. Observations:
  • WHY is Min. Modeste seeking to blame we the people for the consequence of the Cabinet’s decision to re-open the external borders? Even when there was REAL “misbehaviour” at what would normally be the Carnival period and even at the beach lime in Levera, it was done in a calculated manner. That “misbehaviour” did not result in any new cases of COVID-19.   Minister Steele said Grenada was COVID-19 free and some of we the people thought that they deserved a little fun (please keep the borders closed and allow a little Carnival) and an opportunity to “turn hand” and earn a little money. After all so MANY of we the people were at home with bills piling up.
  • Besides that, some of we the people chose to use that means to communicate DISPLEASURE to our political leaders about the proposed COVID-19 Bill and the apparent attempt to continue to keep we the people under a state of emergency so that the external borders could be opened up to facilitate investors and their private capital projects such as Levera and Mt. Hartman.
  • It is a difficult time for the country and for the government. We the people are grateful to all persons on the frontline, in whatever capacity, doing their part to keep Grenada safe. And WE ALL too must play our part to keep Grenada safe.
  • However, it is disingenuous and disrespectful of the Hon. Minister to attempt to put blame on we the people for the shortcomings in respect of decisions taken by the Executive. The rising incidences of COVID-19, as a result of importation, suggest that the border controls and protocols as well as the quarantine measures should be the target, not we the people. These measures need to be revisited and more stringently supervised.

4.1. Result of ILL-Advised and Lop-Sided Policy:

Min. Modeste is trying hard to resuscitate the tourism industry with ill-advised and DISRESPECTFUL measures – like reserving beaches for the exclusive use of some cruise tourists who just want to have some fun. But that fell flat on its face before it even started. Thankfully, the COVID-19 cases on board were identified before the ship got to Grenada.

Globally, the picture for tourism is DISMAL over the next two to three years. Choosing to ignore the fickleness of the tourism sector, following the passage of Hurricanes Ivan and Emily, Grenada focused on the development of the tourism sector to the exclusion of most other sectors, refusing to heed the advice of its own people and even international agencies, to support the development of a more diversified and balanced economy.

So Grenada is merely reaping the fruit of the ill-advised and lopsided policies pursued by the administration – of which Hon. Modeste is a senior member – to the detriment of we the people.

  1. COVID -19, State of Emergency, Election:

We the people are speculating as to whether general elections may be on the horizon. We have noted the projects being announced – such as the relocation of the Fire Services to “provide critical services” to the tourism south. Would a State of Emergency be advantageous to administration as the Fiscal Responsibility Act makes provision for relaxing the strict fiscal targets during a State of Emergency? Would the relaxation of fiscal targets facilitate the inane spending that normally takes place around election time when incumbent administrations, in a bid for re-election “does open projects as if dey opening tins of corn beef”?

The relaxation of the fiscal targets under a state of emergency would also delay the imposition of the additional revenue measures that the government would have to be put in place, a conditionality of the USD22.4 million disbursement for Grenada from the IMF’s Rapid Credit Facility (RCF) mechanism to help cover “balance of payment needs stemming from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic”.

I am really at a loss to understand Min. Modeste’s accusations. Was she trying to make a case for imposition of a State of Emergency? Is the overdraft way over the limit and are faceless financiers applying the squeeze? Are financiers demanding payback? What are financiers demanding? What were financiers promised for facilitating the overdraft? Is it time to deliver and if so, deliver what?

Sandra Ferguson