With these words: "It is our view that every Grenadian is a shareholder in what we call Project Grenada," Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell invited full participation of Grenadians in all walks of life as he seeks to transform the economy.
Vision for Project Grenada: working together to lift the standard of living especially of the most vulnerable among us -- better health care – raising the bar in education – better and more affordable housing.
We must eat better and change to healthier lifestyles warding off diseases caused by a poor diet -- preventable diseases – that weigh heavily on health services and burden tax dollars that may be used for more productive purposes.
Together we must sacrifice to achieve the goal of eradicating poverty – it will not be easy, but if we are to survive and prosper as a nation we must all “chip in” -- put our hands and hearts to the plough and reap a bountiful harvest.
We are a nation of proud people who stand tall -- proud of who we are and what we are – but we must never let pride get in the way of progress.
We must use education to our best advantage and not be blighted by a sense of false pride. Our forefathers laboured long and tiresome hours in the fields with their hands -- digging, cutting and weeding with torn and tattered clothes – sleeping in thatched houses and mud floors to break the chains of poverty.
Pride did not get in the way of the boundless sacrifices they made to get us where we are today – they saw pride in hard work and sacrifice – and so must we.
We must carry on the legacy of our forefathers and not forget – especially in the new realities of the 21st century with the convenience of computer technology and robotics – that we rode on the backs hard work, dedication and sacrifice.
Today, all of us – the entire nation – young and old – are called upon to stand up and be counted as patriotic Grenadians – be the architects of that great sacrifice from which we all benefited.
With determination and patience – in time – abundance will follow.
We see tragic results in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and Libya -- maimed and suffering innocent families with children caught in a conflict with which they had no making -- the consequences of divisiveness.
After all the fighting, all the bombing, all the killing, the utter mayhem, destruction of entire cities and displacement of thousands of families – ultimately, enemies must dialog -- sit around a table, face to face, and talk to each other in a civil manner to resolve their differences.
We have lessons from which we must learn -- not repeat.
We are one people with a common goal: sustainable economic growth in harmony with democracy.
Different paths may lead to the same destination, but if we all stick together – plan together – we will find that elusive route -- that common pathway which can move Grenada – all of us – to a friendlier course of social justice and economic progress.
We must not be discouraged because the road is long and narrow – the path slippery and steep – each step holds the promise of a better day.
The lessons of the past tell us that sacrifice, patience and perseverance are the virtues that we need – qualities that must be nurtured if this nation must find its rightful place among the nations of the world.
I say to the youth among us that the time is neither too late nor too early to start the task ahead – the time is now!
It is your time to prepare today for leadership tomorrow!
You are the masters of a new craft - in a new age.
At your fingertips is a world of advanced science and technology that can propel you far beyond the wildest dreams of our forefathers.
Be the vanguards of a smarter, milder, more welcoming and tolerant generation.
Along that road you will be tested – your commitment will be questioned – believe in yourself, but be open to new and fresh ideas – listen to those who dare to be different – dare to be different!
In the face of adversity hold strong to your beliefs, but never lose sight of the democratic principles – the principles of inclusion – that form the cornerstone of this nation. Recognize that compromise can be strength.
Let us all join hands – young and old -- and stand against discrimination in all its forms -- champion the cause of the weak and the infirm – the blind, the deaf, the mentally challenged, the economically disadvantaged -- those who work from day to day and cannot make ends meet.
We cannot progress as a caring nation leaving our weakest on the wayside – too many of our youth have been left behind labelled as rebellious and outcasts – we must rescue them and bring them back into the fold.
This is not a time to relax – this is a time to check our lives and put an end to careless living -- tighten belts, conserve our resources, use less water, less electricity, less gasoline, car pool and walk more for better health.
These are but some of the small steps, put together, are huge lifestyle changes that can drastically boost the economic and physical health of the nation.
Our government may then put those savings to productive use: in the agricultural sector, in tourism, improving infrastructure for the efficient movement of goods and services, in health and in education – especially early education where children of poor families lag behind.
It is a crime against humanity that poor families remain poor because their children lack the educational opportunities of rich kids.
That must change!
Equal opportunity in the workplace and the cycle of poverty cannot be changed without equal access to quality education.
This is a priority and must be a key component of “Grenada Project” that within the next fifteen years, skillfully managed, must begin the transition from institutional poverty to a relatively more comfortable place in Grenadian society.
Governance is more than just carefully and professionally presented detailed plans. Leaders must have the backbone – the political will -- to follow through.
Our government’s plans for economic and social reforms are backed by a mandate -- trust – the clean sweep of all fifteen seats in parliament on February 19, 2013 – in free and fair elections.
Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has demonstrated by the hard decisions but crucial measures already in place – that he has the political will to follow through.
At this decisive moment -- when we are called upon to make difficult choices for the economic survival of Grenada, we cannot afford to duck away and withdraw from that responsibility.
Grenada has been backed into a corner by circumstances beyond our control and must endure the bitter taste of painful taxes – but these are temporary and will disappear as conditions improve. Better days are ahead!
Project Grenada’s vision of a stable economy will only be realized if we all chip in to make the burden lighter – to succeed, we must all chip in.
Openness in governance is not an option – it is a duty.
The people were not bamboozled by the cowardly act of proroguing parliament when hard decisions had to be made. They spoke loudly and told us that the weak at heart who shy away from their commitment to accountability and transparency -- a fundamental guiding principle in democratic governance -- must surrender to strong leadership.
Nevertheless, we must continue to be vigil and to be prepared for changing tides.
Prime Minister Mitchell’s vision of inclusion has unhinged the doors of partisanship allowing free access to ride the NNP’s liberty train to the grand halls of “Grenada Project.”
Everyone will have the red carpet VIP treatment -- (not green or yellow) – the sceptics, the critics, the destabilisers – confident that as patriotic Grenadians, while they may speak in many tongues, they will in time raise ONE voice and proudly stand for ONE Grenada lending their talents to the “Grenada Project.”
For the success of Project Grenada, our government must take bold steps to curb the excesses and addictive habits we have taken for granted as good living.
The new taxes on alcohol and tobacco products -- that have for years contributed to the high cost of health care -- and deprived us of the full potential and productive capacity of our workers -- must now be managed in sustainable ways that keep more money in our country -- lower consumption -- reduce foreign debt -- and spare future generations of children pain and suffering from the debilitating effects of preventable cancers, alcoholism, and other fatal diseases.
The financial cost to the nation -- in hours lost at work alone -- is worth the sacrifice.
The taxes on unproductive agricultural lands must steer us back to agriculture – the agriculture from which our forefathers fed the nation, educated sons and daughters, paid the taxes that met the nation’s financial needs, but still had enough to please the “colonial master” – a time of plenty.
I say, reverse the clock on agriculture – it's time that we reduce our dependence on imported foods – produce local – buy local – eat local.
Let’s all chip in.
We must all make the supreme sacrifice – face the hardships head on – if we must escape and break the fall from the economic cliff.
We recognize that no country can progress without jobs – Grenada is no exception.
Our government has created incentives to attract not only foreign direct investments, but also local investments that have begun to create jobs releasing the social pressures that induce crime, disorderly conduct and deviant behaviour.
Sandals, a five star resort hotel, in the south of the island, has created more than 300 new jobs. We are confident that with ongoing negotiations more hotels and more jobs will follow.
Locally owned five star, Spice Inn, and other home grown hotels and guest houses are upgrading in anticipation of the successful implementation of project Grenada.
In the sister isle, Carriacou, work on the extension and upgrading of Laurelton AirPort is in progress, the Tyrell Bay Marina is progressing well, local entrepreneurship has kicked in with the renovation of the Carriacou landmark, Mermaid Hotel, the dive shops are having a bonanza, the up-scaled Moringa Restaurant/Creperie was recently opened in anticipation of the serge and in Petite Martinique work on the Sanchez playing field and tidal erosion has been completed. More jobs are on the way as these and other projects come on full stream.
Tourism is on the move, but we also understand that the biggest hindrance to development is the high cost of electricity. Our government cannot rest – can leave no stone unturned -- in finding an equitable solution to the high cost of energy in Grenada.
Exploring alternative sources of energy -- wind – solar – thermal must be an imperative. Talks with Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago continue as we push hard to safeguard Grenada’s off-shore gas and oil reserves.
While we are proud of the accomplishments of St George’s University and the positive educational and financial impact especially in the south – the urban economy – our government is in the process of negotiating to bring to Hope, St. Andrew’s, the prestigious and world renown University of the West Indies, and potentially thousands of students and jobs to strengthen the rural economy.
This must pave the way for a new private sector economic block – business opportunities – strategically located in the centre of the island -- “step up and chip in.”
It must be our goal to bring sustainable jobs closer to our communities, homes and children’s schools reducing our monthly transportation bill -- putting more take home pay in our pockets, affording more time at home with our families and children, reducing domestic conflict, strengthening failing families and restoring traditional family values.
Project Grenada is on a mission to eradicate the roots of systemic poverty and the causes of social discord. Grenada’s reputation as a friendly and welcoming people must rise above all else.
We have been spoilt as a nation of consumers of expensive unnecessary and extravagant foreign goods. Managing our foreign exchange will be an impossible task if we continue on the present course. We must change that course.
Let’s all chip in.
The government’s hard decision to raise taxes on homes and other properties scores low on political popularity, but high on fiscally accountability. How can we maintain the services of our policemen and women, firemen, coast guard, ambulances, our nurses and doctors, our free clinics, our teachers and schools and other essential services in the face of declining treasury revenues?
We must continue to liaise with and seek advice from the business community from whom we collect most of our taxes – they understand the dire consequences of high unemployment and are holding the line – as far as possible – on laying off employees.
Government has also asked our trade unions for a temporary hold on wage increases – they too understand the delicate fiscal balance facing the country and are cooperating. They are working with us – they have chipped in.
Let’s all chip in.
In the coming months and years as Project Grenada kicks in with the necessary structural adjustments – all departments of government -- starting “at the top” -- will feel the pressure.
However, we must make sure that programmes and projects for the most vulnerable – the weakest among us – provide safety nets. The structural adjustments introduced to stabilize the economy must give them “first bite of the apple.”
Implementation of projects and programmes will not be perfect and will need to be monitored and fine-tuned along the way. This will be our opportunity to get involved and “chip in.”
I call upon the patriotism of Grenadians, Carriacouans and Petite Martiniquans in the diaspora with the knowledge and experience to move our country forward -- come home -- get involved – chip in.
We in Grenada have recognized your invaluable contribution to the development of your country over the years abroad, and must give you -- veterans in the development of Grenada -- special consideration when you return home, but at this time of national hardship we ask you to sacrifice – better days are ahead.
I cannot promise that we will change the world, but together we can respond to a changing world, and with “Project Grenada” – hand in hand -- put the spice back in the Spice Isle.
For that I say -- let’s all chip in!