by Arley Gill
I admit that it will take time for us, as a people, to have a debate on national issues without partisan politics deciding which side of the debate we belong to. It will take a certain amount of personal maturity, as well as intellectual honesty and knowledge; of course, there will be other ingredients necessary but those three, I posit, will have to be present.
Personal maturity is critical because we have plenty growing up to do, mentally and not physically. This would allow us to agree with someone else who is of a different political persuasion. Intellectual honesty, as a requirement, is important because some of us know the truth but we cannot allow ourselves to say it, because of our partisan politics. And the knowledge factor is included because we must consider it an obligation before taking a position. When you are informed, your position more often than not will be respected, even when persons disagree.
Now, regarding the energy liberalization policy of the government; is it good for Grenada or is it a bad policy? My position is that it is a good policy. Moreover, unlike the telecommunications sector I don’t think that companies are lining up to compete with the Grenada Electricity Services Ltd. (Grenlec). I am of the view that if there are new players, they are more likely to invest in alternative sources like Geothermal energy, for instance.
What an open market does, is that it should keep Grenlec on their “toes” in the sector and should ensure that any prospective competitor would remain committed and concerned about offering a better service — especially in pricing — to the competition. Now, that cannot be a bad thing. Then how come this issue is an NNP or an NDC issue? The truth is, when I was a member of the National Democratic Congress, I supported that open market policy, along with several other NDC members. So publicly supporting it now does not make me an NNP.
Then, there is the issue of Charles Liu. When we, members of the NDC, were in government, the citizenship by investment (CBI) programme was firmly tabled by the then Minister of Finance and strongly supported in Cabinet by the then Prime Minister. I opposed it then, along with other Cabinet colleagues; opposed the NDC’s version of CBI not in principle but on its planned execution and on the involvement of the proposed players. It was my honest position. The questions of the NDC’s programme always had to do with its implementation, but there certainly were efforts to launch a CBI.
In the case of Charles Liu, at the time he was accepted in the Grenada programme he was not charged with any violations in the civil or criminal courts in the United States. Now, how do you expect the government to foresee that he would be charged in the future? Clearly, that’s an “if I did know” phenomenon; hindsight always being 20–20.
The reality is, this is one of the pitfalls of such a programme. It’s a programme that exists in the US itself, as well as countless other developing countries in the world. As small developing vulnerable economies, we must compete for whatever economic opportunities that are out there. The economic citizenship programme is a bona fide economic policy.
I applauded and supported the bold and progressive plan for the area known as Camerhogne Park to be relocated and used to build a hotel, because I am of the view that it is in the best economic interest of the country. Now, others disagree and want to maintain the area as is. Fair enough! That is their viewpoint and I respect it. However, I think they are dead wrong. But that does not make them NDC and me NNP. We simply disagree on a policy position.
When I was in government there was a proposal to build a ring road around the General Hospital, and linking the Carenage to the other side of town. I was excited about that plan, and already was beginning to dream of the carnival parade on that ring road. My excitement at the proposed ring road had nothing to do with me being NDC at the time. I was convinced that there were benefits to be had for Grenada.
The truth be told, in my old days in the NDC, members supported casinos in Grenada, because we were convinced that the economic advantage outweighed the moral argument. That was not an NDC or NNP issue. Most members, too, wanted the Lewis Hamilton deal with the Grand Beach hotel to succeed, even if some of us agreed that a better deal could have been made. Here, again, we believed that the opportunities outweighed the disadvantages.
The point is in nation building, most decisions will never be foolproof. Leaders have to make decisions knowing that, better can be done but it may be the best we can achieve at the moment. There will always be arguments for and against. However, that does not necessarily have to make each and every issue of national development one that is debated and decided through the prism of partisan politics.