“Hope in reality is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torment of man”
— Friedrich Nietzche
In its 2015 budget presentation, the Government of Grenada did not even bother to provide hope anymore. They left hope behind, bypassing Marquis, and are now in the middle of Grenville maintaining fiscal discipline, creating jobs, protecting the vulnerable and wondering whether to shoot up to Grand E’tang into Willis, or simply cut across to Paradise.
There has been an increased allocation to the Grenada Home Improvement Scheme from $5.35 million to $6 million.
There has also been an increase from 2 to 4 million dollars for the soft loan program managed by Housing Authority.
The Government also announced that 350 families are about to receive housing units constructed in Soubise, Frequente and Mt Gay, under the Chinese low-income housing program.
The second phase of the Chinese Housing Program will provide homes for 650 families, and will be constructed in Beausejour and Frequente in St George, Black Bay in St John, Diamond, St Mark, St Patrick and Dumfries in Carriacou.
It was also announced that the needy assistance program has been doubled from $500,000 to $1 million.
The 2015 budget provides for total expenditure of $1,152,234,237.
Projecting a recurrent revenue collection of $545.4 million and recurrent expenditure of $482.7 million resulting in a huge surplus of $65.6 million which magically becomes an overall deficit of $36.5 million, the framers of this document go to the Bishop or their Pastor to do some severe soul-searching.
There are three reasons for the huge current account surplus. First, that the cuts in expenditure are too drastic. The second possibility is that the revenue measures instituted on the back of the people are biting too deep. Then of course, the third possibility is all of the above. Whichever answer it is the solution is the same. Time to have a discussion with your conscience, assuming you have one.
Debt, and the servicing of debt, takes up the single largest allocation from the expenditure side of the budget $459.3 million (40% of total expenditure). This is followed by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources (10%), and then by the Ministry of Finance and Energy (8%). On the contrary, the main votes contributing to the revenue side are tourism, agriculture and education.
The projected growth rate is 2.6%, well above the average of 1.5% in the OECS.
Total debt according to the document has reached $2.6 billion up from $2.4 billion. However, the debt to GDP ratio fell from 109% to 107%. It would appear that the more debt that is paid the amount in total stock just increases.
Probably the most significant part of the Budget Statement is what was not said. The government expressed its intention to work with Trinidad and Tobago in the exploration and exploitation of energy resources. The statement did not say when this would commence or the expected revenue yield from this exercise.
Several banks have closed branches during the period and sent home sizable portions of their staff. The government did not mention a strategy to deal with the current situation and the indication that other bank will be following suit during 2015.
CWC is about to restore it monopoly on the telecommunications industry in the Caribbean and not a single measure was announced to tackle this issue. No provisions were put in place to ensure stakeholder protection in this crisis.
Notwithstanding the banks, other companies are struggling to keep their doors open. Some companies have chosen a policy of slow attrition, not replacing staff as they leave, while others are absorbing losses in an effort to retain loyal and productive people.
Also, the Government refers to renewable energy and the need to implement measures to bring down the cost of energy in the country. However, there is no mention of the system being put in place to assist and encourage those who are desirous of participating in this operation.
Similarly, several projects were noted to be financed by the funds generated under the Citizens by Investment Program, but no word on how much money has been collected under the program to date nor how was the funds generated spent. It is clear that the Government insists on the propagation of this slush fund while brazenly not reporting its performance to the people.
The IMANI program seems to be a sinkhole in which money is poured without regard for results. Has there been a review of the objectives of this program? What are the success stories coming out of the financing as against the stagnant failures?
Every year, we set aside funds for the vulnerable but we never get to meet them. Is it our submission that the vulnerable of the year before are last year’s vulnerable? Or that the vulnerable of this year will be next year’s vulnerable? What has the vulnerable done to become non-vulnerable? What is the impact of our money on the vulnerable? Do they multiply and create more vulnerability? Is the quantum of vulnerable falling or increasing from our intervention?
In conclusion, one of these fine days, the people of Grenada needs to be introduced to the vulnerable. The vulnerable invokes memories of Mr Hard Time. As the woman saved and saved for Mr Hard Time, not knowing when he would show up, Mr Hard Time did eventually put in an appearance, timing his visit for when she was not at home. One would want to be around when one of these fine days the vulnerable do appear.
Garvey Louison, FCCA