2014 will be a very challenging year for the people of Grenada. It marks the start of the implementation of Keith Mitchell NNP and the International Monetary Fund, IMF structural adjustment program (SAP).
Government will be implementing some serious austerity measures in an attempt to bring the island's fiscal situation back to some form of normalcy. The Keith Mitchell-led NNP administration having been by and large responsible for increasing the national debt to an unsustainable margin of 115% of GDP is now tasked to try to correct their mistakes of the past.
From all indications the prime minister and minister of finance, together with his cabinet of ministers is overwhelmed by this insurmountable task that they face. The policy of the administration is to impose additional taxes on the people at a time when the economy is in a tailspin. Every economist will agree that this is a very bad policy. Increasing taxation and cutting back on expenditure in a struggling economy is a recipe for disaster. The problem is compounded by poor leadership at all levels.
The majority of the Grenadian people have lost trust and confidence in this administration having been sold a 'fairy tale' leading up to the February 19th general elections. The electorate voted for the NNP believing that Dr Mitchell had the prescription for reducing the high unemployment rate in the country and propelling the country onto a path of sustainable growth and development. They fell for his unsubstantiated claims and rhetoric of having investors lined up waiting to invest in Grenada once his party was re-elected. The package of promises presented to the electorate and the grandiosity of the election campaign convinced the electorate that Dr Mitchell is the man.
Almost one year in office, the administration is struggling to fulfill the promises of thousands of jobs in the first 100 days of taking office. Government is not delivering and is faced with bankruptcy, hence the reason for the structural adjustment program that will certainly cause even more pain to the citizens of the nation.
It is as a result of this gross failure by this group of mainstream politicians that the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique are demanding that Governor General Cecile La Grenada, who herself is facing a lawsuit from the former supervisor of elections Judy Benoit, appoint the world renowned businessman and tourism icon Sir Roystan Hopkin as interim prime minister of Grenada with effect from January 1, 2014 for a period of three years.
This will be an unprecedented move. It has never occurred in the English-speaking Caribbean; however, this is the greatest sacrifice Dr Mitchell and the NNP can make for the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Grenada is on record for making political history, including first independent country to overthrow an elected leader and also to elect a party twice with total control of parliament. Our current situation require action that is 'out of the box'. This may be the best one if Grenada's economic malaise is to be effectively and seriously addressed. Prime Minister Mitchell will be seen as a true patriot and statesman for surrendering power for the good of country. Nelson Mandela took some bold initiatives, including serving for a single five year term and today even after his death South African is a much better place.
Sir Roystan Hopkin, given his credentials and background, will be able to first and foremost unite the country . This is the first piece of the puzzle that needs to be solved. Having no political baggage his hands are clean and so he has the integrity and credibility to move the country forward in unity. I can't underscore the importance of political unity in a time like this. With political unity comes productivity, the next missing part of the puzzle. Government can implement all the austerity measures it wants. They can increase taxes on the people tenfold. If there is no productivity the economy will remain stagnant.
The current team led by Dr Mitchell lacks what it takes to unite the people under one set of common goals in order for the structural adjustment program to succeed. There is a lack of trust and confidence in this team. Time and time they have demonstrated that they are not credible, lack integrity, transparency and accountability in their management and stewardship of the economy and by extension the country. The IMF knows that and will not give the NNP administration any leeway as it relates to the implementation of the program.
Government hasn't been forthright and honest with the people and so called social partners as to what the program will entail. They have instead collectively lied to the Grenadian people while the country continues to sink further and further into the abyss. Given the track record of the old NNP guard and the experiences of the past, one can conclude that it would take a miracle for this program to succeed under their leadership. While the party hawks and cronies of the NNP will disagree with the prospect of making Sir Roystan interim prime minister, the vast majority of Grenadians including, opposition, business sector, NGOs, trade unions, churches, etc., will welcome such a prospect. His appointment as interim leader will certainly be a beam of light at the end of the tunnel.
Sir Roystan Hopkin is a man of integrity, credibility and is well respected in the local, regional and international communities. His astute management of the Spice Island Resort, one of the leading hotels in Grenada, has resulted in his businesses receiving world class international awards year after year. His humility and love for people, especially his employees, is commendable with the net result being the Spice Island Resort providing the best customer service on the island. Major international companies including Cable and Wireless, LIME, have turned to Sir Roystan for advice on how to improve their customer service. an area that is so lacking in the country. His exceptional business skills, talents and experience make him the ideal candidate to lead Grenada for the next three years into the structural adjustment program.
The lack of trust and confidence that currently exists between Dr Mitchell, the IMF and other stakeholders, including the Grenadian middle class, will be minimised with Sir Roystan Hopkin as interim prime minister. Whatever measures he have to implement in the interest of the country will be implemented without any political considerations since he will not be seeking political office by way of the ballot.
While he performs his duties together with his team of independent technocrats the mainstream political parties need to reduce their political work, doing what is required to unite the people. The country's democratic institutions will also be free of political interference and so they will operate in a real democratic way, supporting the structural adjustment program. The international community, including the European Union, will support this arrangement. Grenada had an interim leader in Sir Nicholas Braithwaite following the demise of the People's Revolutionary Government (PRG). He performed excellently and I have absolutely no doubt that Sir Roystan Hopkin will do the same.
The political atmosphere in Grenada is way too tense and charged for the successful implementation of the program under Dr Mitchell and the NNP. The prime minister has exacerbated the situation by his political gerrymandering and personal attacks of Hon Tillman Thomas, Nazim Burke and their party the National Democratic Congress (NDC). This has distracted the prime minister and minister of finance from addressing the serious economic issues facing the people. The prime minister has to realise that is it impossible to marginalise 20,000-plus voters who voted for the NDC and the other registered voters who didn't vote for the NNP.
Sir Roystan Hopkin is free of political branding and name tags and so no one will be marginalised. He will promote genuine inclusion, tapping the skills, knowledge, talents and experiences of everyone to build a just and sustainable Grenadian home grown economy. This economy wouldn't be one designed to benefit the 'green people' at the expense of the rest of citizens of the country. It would be an economy for Grenadians irrespective of political affiliation, sex, race or creed. That is what the framers of our constitution had in mind when it was written.
Sir Roystan Hopkin with his clean, pure and untainted incorruptible hands will be in a position to address the issues of corruption and mismanagement for which it is alleged that the current regime is inherently is tainted by. He will be free to take the necessary actions against corruption in the public and private sector,, including action against the tax delinquents and those involved in tax evasion. He will be unimpeded as he carries out the long overdue public sector reform. He will be able to create a public service that is free from fear and political intimidation. The productivity issue which is seriously affecting the public service in a negative way will be address under his leadership.
As it relates to attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Grenada, Sir Hopkin possesses the credentials to attract very credible investors to the country. He himself at a time when the economy is sluggish has invested millions in his own local business while many other business either shut their doors or retrenched workers. In the area of tourism just imagine what an excellent duo Sir Roystan and CEO of Sandals Mr Butch Stewart would make. These two gentlemen working in unison have the potential to transform the Grenadian tourist industry. Alexander Otway Noel minister of tourism doesn't have what it takes to reform the tourism sector. What Sir Roystan and Butch Stewart bring to tourism is worth much more that the entire tourism budget.
Increased taxation is not the solution. Decriminalisation of marijuana is not the solution. What is required is leadership and a change in the current political dispensation. There is the need for a comprehensive paradigm shift from the politics of divisiveness, corruption, lack of accountability and transparency, failed parliamentary procedures, inefficiency, political expediency, cronyism, mismanagement, undue political interference, the lack of productivity and victimisation. To accomplish this positive and lasting change to the current attitude the Governor General should appoint Sir Roystan Hopkin as the interim prime minister effective Jan 1st 2014. The state will then give the old MPs including the prime minister an agreed retirement package for their years of service including their current term. The other MPs and opposition politicians in collaboration with the Organisation of American States and the United Nations go through a period of training having the necessary support structures in place. There have been too many 'fly by night' politicians in the parliament of the country over the years, burdening the state as liabilities instead of sustainable assets. Too often, instead of standing up for what is right, they have blindly followed the policies of their leader and party, hence the reason why the country's national debt is now 2.5 billion dollars with very little to show for it. Nelson Mandela sacrificed his family and life for South Africa. Our own leader and cabinet were forced by the people to sacrifice only 6% in salary increases.
The overwhelming majority of people in Grenada respect Sir Hoplkin. They respect his principles and appreciate his genuine leadership. He has the trust and confidence of the international community and exhibits qualities of a genuine statesman. While he may have his own political affiliation and philosophy he has largely remain non-partisanship but gives advice to the government of the day. Sir Hopkin transcends politics. He is a true patriot. He has shared his wealth with the poor and vulnerable of the country and has a deep and sincere passion for education. In a time when the country is mired with economic difficulties, political polarisation and bickering, it needs the wisdom and leadership of Sir Roy Hopkin. The country appreciates how he has led his family and business in a selfless and loving way. He is loved by all his employees and their families for what he has done for them over the years. His business the Spice Island Resort is a very bright spot for Grenada.
Dr Mitchell, please give it to Sir Roystan Hopkin MBE. He will definitely do a much better job that your new found friend the defector Pedro. Dr Mitchell, Doc, has an opportunity to make his greatest contribution and 'sacrifice' for your country. The country and people you claim to love so much. The country that has given him so much throughout his life. He now needs to give back something to this blessed land of ours. Please don't disappoint the country's future generation our young people. Sir Roystan Hopkin is the man. Take heed Mr PM of what is happening in Thailand, Ukraine and around the world. The people demand a better standard of living, good governance and fairness. Sacrifice from one, sacrifice for all. Grenada shall strive should you comply.