Dear Prime Minister Mitchell,
I greet you with both compliments of the season and my concerns regarding issues of national importance.
The contents of this letter will be open to the public in keeping with my responsibility as a former parliamentarian to promote transparency in public life and our national affairs. It is crucial that when one opposes public policies that the entire nation be aware and not just a few. In this practice, constructive national debates will emerge, and the democratic process is ultimately strengthened.
My initial concern involves the apparent threat to our nation at this time, Covid-19.
As a youth, I must express the anger and frustration of my generation towards this administration’s lack of creativity and innovation in seeking to develop and enhance alternative sectors other than Tourism. While we can both agree that the Hospitality industry provides an opportunity for many, the constant reliance upon this sector to lead the development in a third-world nation is overrated as we have witnessed time and again the extent of its vulnerability towards external shocks.
One such shock is the Covid-19 Global Pandemic. I congratulate Grenada for so far maintaining “officially” no Covid related deaths. While I am pleased about this, I must say to the contrary, that I am not aware of any testing at the morgues to conclusively determine if this is a fact. The recent spike in cases hints to community spread and to what extent, we are not apparent. Your administration’s lack of transparency has also contributed to national confusion and limited credibility of the information scantly reported in the past by the Covid-19 Committee.
The lack of a broad-based committee or department solely to manage this health crisis is evident as the current committee is made up primarily of New National Party sympathisers and supporters stretched beyond their limits. Such a committee requires more professionals and individuals with the technical capacity to operate independently of political influence. The perception is that you are more interested in patting yourself on the back with international praises as opposed to ensuring that the public is reliably informed and engaged when a new situation arises with the outbreak.
Therefore, it is essential to note, while national unity is necessary during this phase, it cannot be plucked from the sky or used only when convenient. The pandemic is a national concern, and anyone or group that can contribute to the national effort must be allowed.
My subsequent concern is of our international relations with major foreign powers.
It is no secret Prime Minister that a majority of Grenadians are not comfortable with the nature of the recent economic assistance given to your administration at this time from the People’s Republic of China. Grenadians have questioned whether this particular loan is relevant for the times or will this be a means to cede the Maurice Bishop International Airport to the Exim Bank of China.
Answers by your administration so far have been limited and well-rehearsed but never addressing the growing influence locally of our powerful Asian neighbour. While I withhold my views on the topic, I must note, that the viewpoints emanating from underground sources mentioned the threat of a future geopolitical situation. The camp at La Sagesse comes into question as to the real intent of the Chinese. Will this be the infrastructure for a future military base? This particular point in St David seems independent of our country and operates separately. Do we have sufficient checks and balances at that location?
These concerns, as far as I can see, are genuine and are enhanced when combined with the conversation of our airport upgrade. According to your administration, MBIA will receive an additional and extended runway. The question is on what basis was this decided? will such an upgrade allow for military cargo to land? To my best knowledge, China’s negotiations are not aggressive but allow for the second party to have the final say on options they provide based on a request. If this was the case, why did your administration choose an airport upgrade over a new hospital? What are the exact benefits at this time of a loan to upgrade our international airport?
Another area that foreign influence is of concern to me has to do with our Oil and Gas potential not for the nationality of the businesses involved, but for the secrecy on the Government’s part. About one year ago, I reached out to the Russian company GPG for information regarding their progress in our sector. Their response was interesting, and I questioned whether or not Grenada truly made any progress with this sector as you outlined in the 2018 campaign season. The reply to my questions in the senate by the Leader of the Government’s business, was also telling. The National Gas company of Trinidad and Tobago signed an agreement with GPG without Grenada, and I would like to know why. Does Grenada still own its resources? What role is Guangzhou, the Chinese company, expected to play?
My final area of concern is related to the Imani training programme.
Despite the many opportunities to improve the youth situation, your administration is yet to demonstrate a clear upward path towards genuine youth development. Your current flagship programme referred to as the New Imani is still unable to show substantive progress for the over $200 million spent to run the programme for many years. When will your administration allow for an audit to be conducted on the said programme?
The announcement of a $7 million transition component is another admission of failure for this policy to meet the needs of our youth. Your plan lacks independence from the political influence and depth in its purpose. We are therefore desperately in need of an alternative to the current path that you have kept us on. The dependence syndrome is removing our dignity as young people and you must be aware that a training programme does not provide job security. Why do you continue to expand the programme?
Mr Prime Minister, we cannot be satisfied with this type of leadership at this stage. The same old mindset will not cut it and the future of Grenada cannot be built upon handouts and dependence. Grenada will require a new order to restore its national pride and spirit.
Ron L Redhead