ST GEORGE’S, Grenada -- A former Grenada cabinet minister has complained about the finance minister’s “hush-hush” approach to borrowing, and has expressed concern about citizens’ right to privacy.
Prime Minister Tillman Thomas recently announced plans for the establishment of a national Computer Incident Response Team as part of a government effort to improve cyber security, and to reduce the risk of ordinary citizens, businesses and others falling victims to cyber crime.
But former Senator Arley Gill has suggested that government may not be true to its word, alluding to public complaints and accusations of “hacking of e-mails and tapping of telephones of private citizens” by officers employed by the Thomas administration.
Gill’s remarks were made while chairing a meeting of MP Glynis Roberts, parliamentary representative for St George South.
Roberts was among 11 victorious candidates of the National Democratic Congress in the party’s successful 2008 general election campaign against the New National Party (NNP).
At the meeting, Roberts announced that she had resigned from government as Environment and Foreign Trade Minister.
“I remain a proud Member of the Parliament of Grenada, and will take my rightful place in its chambers when it is finally allowed to sit again,” Roberts said at the meeting. “I truly hope that this is sooner rather than later because there are some urgent economic and financial matters that need to be taken care of, so that people can be guaranteed salaries and benefits.”
Gill, too, called for parliament – which has been suspended – to be re-opened to allow debate.
“Mr Prime Minister, open up the parliament,” said Gill, who was dropped from the senate in May. He was replaced by Dr George Vincent, who was appointed Tourism and Culture Minister.
The Grenada government, which was late in paying public servants their June and August salaries, has admitted to a cash flow problem.
It was recently made public, through media reports from St Vincent, that the country’s Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had allowed Grenada access to finances through a facility at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank.
The money to pay August salaries was said to have been borrowed from the National Insurance Scheme (NIS) of Grenada, but the transaction has not been confirmed by Finance Minister Nazim Burke.
Gill, a former Minister responsible for Information and Culture, said it is unacceptable that Burke is refusing to say when the government is borrowing money to deal with the country’s fiscal challenges.
“Mr Burke, you are out of place. You have to account to the Grenadian people. The ministry of finance is not your own palace,” Gill said.
“We can’t accuse the NNP of doing hush-hush things and when we’re in government, we’re doing hush-hush things.”
There are unconfirmed reports that govern may be borrowing another EC$70 million from NIS.
Already, a top opposition official is warning against the move, saying it can cripple the NIS.
Senator Anthony Boatswain, a former Finance Minister, said that “excessive borrowing” from the NIS can pose a major risk for pensioners and other beneficiaries in the future.
Boatswain appealed for an urgent convening of parliament to discuss, and possibly agree on, a solution to what he describes as “this financial crisis”.
Parliamentary backbencher Peter David, a former Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister, said nothing should be done to jeopardize the investments that NIS has in safekeeping for Grenadian workers.
“I would prefer government not to borrow from NIS altogether. But, if they are forced to, they must remain cognizant that this is workers’ money that must be returned as soon as is possible to help the working people of the nation in their time of greatest need,” said David, MP for the Town of St George.