Staffed with three ministers in the persons of Dr Mitchell, Hon Winston Garraway, Hon Kenny Lalsingh, two permanent secretaries and a bunch of advisers, including senior communications adviser Hamlet Mark, the ministry of finance seems to be dysfunctional and in a state of disarry. Leadership is grossly lacking and the morale of junior staff is at an all time low.
US secretary of the treasury Jack Lew and Fed chairman Janet Yellen would envy Grenada’s ministry of finance with its three ministers.
Having gotten rid of his senior economic adviser Dr Patrick Antoine, minister of finance Dr Keith Mitchell seems overwhelmed and confused by the gravity of the economic , political and social problems confronting his ministry and the country.
Dr Antoine is an experience economist who is the architect of the so called 'new economy' that the NNP talked so much about leading up to the February 19 general elections. It was widely anticipated that he would become the new minister of finance in the new NNP administration. Instead, he was appointed senior economic adviser, a position he never really functioned in. He hasn't been heard of for months and one wonders what has become of the new economy.
With the IMF structural adjustment program in limbo and on the verge of collapse even before it gets off the ground, the ministry of finance as dysfunctional as it is, Prime Minister Mitchell needs to reshuffle his cabinet and appoint a new minister of finance.
In his capacity as minister of finance, Mitchell is incapable, out of sync, incompetent, full of inertia, lacks the required energy and passion and downright ineffective.
Since assuming this portfolio about one year ago all that the nation have heard from the minister of finance are inconsistencies, contradictions, half truths, zigzag and myopic vision, a sense of hopefulness. Grenada is just drifting in the wind with its people hoping that something positive would happen. Every minister, including minster of housing Hon Delma Thomas, is a spokesperson on matters that should be handled by the ministry of finance. Such is the lack of leadership focus, vision and direction in that ministry.
In a time of serious economic difficulties the country needs an effective minister of finance. The ministry of finance is void of leadership and Dr Mitchell should swallow his pride and ego and appoint a new minister of finance ASAP. He has failed and it is gleaming for even the blind to see.
He needs to quit before he cause further damage to the national economy.
As minister of finance Dr Mitchell has not come up with a single new initiative to move the economy forward and spur economic growth. Having won the elections with over 30,000 votes he lacks the leadership ability to lead these persons and the rest of the country on a path of innovation and creativity. He seems to lack the ability to tap into this human resource base to revitalize agriculture, business, manufacturing, agro industries, fishing, ICT, etc. PM Mitchell isn't known for his ability to create economic growth yet he seems to love the ministry of finance.
Despite having two economists, Hon Anthony Boatswain and Dr Patrick Antoine, at his disposal he selfishly clings on to that ministry even as the economy slides deeper and deeper into recession.
PM Mitchell is very good at borrowing and spending the capital created by others, hence the reason he believes that he can tax his way out of the economic mess he has created. The problem he faces now is that with a debt of over $2.5 billion his ability to borrow is curtailed.
Instead of providing the people with a 'hand up ' the minister of finance is looking for capital to dish 'hand out' to his supporters and cronies. ALBA is seen as a source of free monies. How would Grenada's relationship with the IMF be affected, only time will tell. The United States is the main financial contributor to the IMF and World Bank.
It is apparent that the leading world financial institutions, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Grenada's creditors, don't trust and have little confidence in the minister of finance who is also prime minister. This is evident with the delay in the signing of the 'letter of intent' and the IMF reluctance to provide any financial assistance to the NNP administration until and unless that they are convince of governments commitment to the structural adjustment program.
This mistrust isn't only affecting the relationship between Grenada and the IMF, it is also affecting the relationship between government and the social partners , especially the TUC.
Former minister of finance Hon Nazim Burke has an outstanding relationship with these institutions based on his management of the economy and so he will be able to attract financial support much easier than Dr Mitchell.
To show the IMF and the other creditors that his administration is seriously making an effort to address the economic problems facing Grenada, Dr Mitchell needs to do the following immediately:
A . Stop sporting an 'Afro Government' . If he is requesting a 'hair cut' from the creditors then he needs to 'trim' the size of his own government and cabinet. There are 21 ministers, senators, parliamentary secretaries including three MPs without a ministerial portfolio receiving ministerial salaries. Gross wastage of public funds. The country isn't receiving value for money.
B, Cut back on the number of high paying advisers and end the practice of jobs for the boys.
C. With the public service already bloated, end the practice of victimization of qualified employees and replacing them with unqualified party supporters. End the practice of hiring retirees back into the public service
D. Work with the ministry of youth to revamp the Imani program. The program in its current form is a drag on the scarce resources of the country. Utilize the youthful energy in the productive sectors of the economy.
E. Engage in a serious tax collection scheme of the 100 delinquent tax evaders including members of your own cabinet who may be tax offenders.
Serious times calls for serious action with a serious, capable and effective minister of finance charting the economic future of the country. This is not the time to be playing political games with the lives of the people. The elections are over and now is the time to show leadership and deliver on the many promises made to the electorate. One year has elapsed and nothing has happened except for the increase in taxation, blame game and political bickering.
The minister of finance has failed. Into a second year it can't be business as usual. Time to change course and personnel. The IMF would not suggest who should be the our minister of finance. That is the prerogative of the prime minister, however by their action and attitude towards the minister we should realize that the IMF is sending a subtle signal that it is time for a new minister of finance. They have lost trust and confidence in Dr Mitchell.