It is generally accepted in Grenada that the NDC in government, takes decisions based on what is best for the country, even at the risk of subsequent electoral loss.
This was the case in 1995, when, following the only true homegrown structural adjustment programme we have ever had, elections were held just as Grenada was poised for significant development. The NNP inherited this healthy economy. For political expediency, they recklessly squandered that opportunity and amassed a national debt of over $2bn that, together with hurricane Ivan, set the country back and so that further fiscal measures were required by 2005.
In 2006, the administration with Dr Mitchell as Minister of Finance, introduced a white paper for the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT). All the reasons why introducing VAT was necessary were given, but VAT was not implemented. Mitchell was more concerned about what was politically expedient than what was beneficial for the country. Elections were around the corner, so the interest of the country was sacrificed for political expediency.
In 2009, the NDC administration implemented VAT while the NNP, then in opposition, again choosing political expediency over country, moaned and groaned that VAT should not be implemented. Today VAT accounts for over 30% of government revenue. VAT revenues that Mitchell now boasts about when he speaks of increased domestic revenue.
Instead of showing vision and creativity, the current administration is again sacrificing the best interest of the country on the altar of political expediency. During the 2008 election campaign, the NDC pledged the implementation of National Health Insurance (NHI) so that health insurance coverage could be available for all Grenadians. The NHI was to be just part of the wider policy of holistic health and wellness as one of the transformational pillars of the economy. It was never meant to stand alone.
Today, the state of healthcare is the worse that we have ever seen in Grenada. Added to that, after 6 years, the NNP is under pressure to deliver some kind of NHI because failure to do so will cost them politically. Between 2013 and 2018, they did nothing to build on the work that NDC started. The reason for this is simple. They do not care about the wellbeing of the people of Grenada.
Now that the political heat is on, this uncaring administrating is scrambling for a quick fix. Health Minister Nickolas Steele recently announced at a party event, that government is considering increasing VAT from 15% to 17.5% to fund the NHI, shamelessly piggy-backing on a measure they refused to implement because it was politically inconvenient.
Worse yet, there has been absolutely no mention by the minister or any of his colleagues of Universal Health Coverage or any comprehensive policy on health and wellness. It may be politically convenient for NNP to hastily try to implement NHI, but the minister and his colleagues well know that the focus should be on an holistic approach to health and wellness.
The ongoing dilemma with the NIS is another example of NNP sacrificing the national interest for political convenience. They have consistently refused to take steps to ensure the NIS is reformed even though the experts long warned that it is critical to do this for the NIS to survive. In fact, in the August 2016 Actuarial Valuation of the NIS, the experts stated clearly that if measures were not taken by 2018, the scheme will run out of funds and collapse by 2035. Yet, nothing was done because this ‘bad news’ came right in the middle of an election campaign and while taking action would have been in the best interest of the country, Mitchell and his gang calculated that it would not have been politically convenient, so they did nothing.
Related to the health and wellbeing of the nation is the fact that government has consistently refused to address the issue of alcohol and drug abuse even though statistics show that Grenadians are among the highest consumers of alcohol in the world. The negative impact of this ‘distinction’ seems to continuously elude the NNP as it stares the rest of us in the face. The NNP administration shows no care as they apparently do not connect the increased road traffic accidents, domestic and other forms of violence and vagrancy with the high levels of alcohol consumption, especially among our youth. We imagine that as far as NNP is concerned, prioritising the establishment of an alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre will not win them political mileage.
The all-important health sector is just one of the more glaring areas where the NNP has demonstrated that they are willing to sacrifice the interest of the country and its people if they score political points and stay in office. They have done the same with pensions, agriculture, education, infrastructure, the environment. While they focus on what is politically convenient, only looking at governance in 5 year election cycles, the interests of the people and sustainable improvement in their lives are sacrificed. This is a reality we urge our people to wake up to and act accordingly.