by Dr the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister, Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique
On the occasion of Grenada’s 48th Anniversary of Independence, 7 February 2022 – “Overcoming Our Adversity, Safeguarding Livelihoods, Protecting Our Future”
Fellow Grenadians, friends of Grenada, sisters and brothers, good morning to all.
Today represents yet another momentous occasion in our country’s history, as we celebrate 48 years as an independent nation.
Notwithstanding the bumps along the road that threatened to derail our progress, our beloved country has recorded many milestones in the past four decades. There is much to be proud of as we approach our half-century as a nation. Despite the extensive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which is intensifying the usual developmental challenges that small island developing states face, we are indeed well-poised to continue our upward trajectory of growth and advancement of our people.
Sisters and brothers, as you are well aware, the developmental gains that we are currently enjoying, did not come easily; the road has been fraught with trials and tribulations, but time and time again, we have overcome, rising triumphantly over impediments and continuing the march forward.
In the true spirit of our ancestors who fought many battles to lay the foundation on which we build today, Grenadians have repeatedly proven that we are a resilient people who have no qualms about showcasing this admirable quality. In fact, the pandemic has forced us now more than ever, to demonstrate how resilient we truly are.
Sisters and brothers, our children have been the hardest hit by this pandemic, their young lives unimaginably usurped by the changes necessary to fight Covid-19.
The advances in modern technology and the provision of electronic devices by Government allowed for the option of online learning, but there’s really nothing to adequately replace valuable face to face instructional times for young, impressionable minds. In addition to the significant learning loss, our young boys and girls have been deprived of the social interaction that is so necessary to foster good human relations. We just need to reflect on our own childhood and how we valued meeting our friends at school and participating in various sporting and leisure activities, to immediately understand how much of a disadvantage this pandemic has created for them. Today, I ask that you join me in praying for our young brothers and sisters, that they may recover from this immeasurable loss. Let us also recommit ourselves, as adults, to being more empathetic, rather than judgmental.
My friends, we all face the physical threat of this viral infection, and many have succumbed to its deadly grasp. Many others have to contend with being stripped of their livelihood as the severity of the pandemic crippled some sectors of the economy. At the national level, had it not been for Government’s prudent fiscal management and the sacrifices of you the people, the impact of the pandemic could have been even more detrimental. However, almost 2 years to the date when the pandemic first reached our shores, we persevere, confident that this too, shall pass.
Sisters and brothers, for yet another year, Covid-19 has caused our independence celebrations to be a mere fraction of its usual flamboyance, a bittersweet reality, but an absolutely necessary one as we adhere to established protocols that discourage mass gatherings to minimise the spread of infections.
Although physical distance has become the new norm, we are perpetually united through our patriotism and unrelenting love for this beautiful country we call home. So today, while you are not physically present here, showcasing our splendid national colours, I know that Grenadians far and wide share a palpable love for home, a bond that transcends all differences, particularly on occasions like these, when the love of country is the language we all speak.
Sisters and brothers, despite the dark cloud of the pandemic that continues to hover over our country and in fact, the world, we look to the future with hope and we embrace the decisions that will facilitate the best possible outcomes for our people. But at the same time, we know that this must be underpinned by concrete actions that will help transition hope from a desire into reality.
This is why we are concerned about the level of vaccine hesitancy that exists across Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. We believe in the science and we remain optimistic that vaccination and achieving herd immunity will help bring an end to this health crisis.
We will therefore continue to advocate for vaccination, but ultimately, my fellow Grenadians, there is only so much the Government can do or say. What we need more than ever, is a solid partnership, Government and people, working side by side as we seek to overcome this adversity, safeguard lives and livelihoods and create a legacy for future generations.
The fallout created by the pandemic has increased the onus on Government to provide economic relief and social welfare programmes to ease the burden of impact on our people. Historically, we are a people-centred Government but the reality of the pandemic has compelled us to demonstrate even more, our genuine love for the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
Naturally, it is a difficult time for Government to be called upon to do more, particularly as it faces, at the same time, a reduction in revenue, when compared to pre-pandemic years. However, this Government is committed to ensuring that our most vulnerable citizens are not further marginalised by the impact on this relentless pandemic. That is why the Government has embarked on Covid-19 economic stimulus support programmes which have benefitted thousands of Grenadians, through grant support payments, unemployment benefits, enhanced social protection initiatives and improved access to funding for small businesses among other areas.
The first stimulus package, announced in March 2020, benefitted about 6,000 Grenadians, including 147 businesses. Several categories of workers benefitted from the measures including bus owners, taxi and tour operators and tour guides, tourist and market vendors, hairdressers and barbers, small travel agents, members of the marine, dive and yachting sector, hotel and apartment owners and restaurant and bar owners. Additionally, direct assistance was provided to 44 LIAT workers, 120 aviation services employees and 244 Royalton employees.
In September 2021, recognising the continued economic uncertainty and extended adverse impact created by the pandemic, Government implemented a second series of economic stimulus support measures. To date, more than 3,000 Grenadians have received $13.1 million in benefits through various initiatives including:
- Income and payroll support: 1,100 beneficiaries
- Unemployment assistance: close to 800 persons
- Support for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises: more than 200 beneficiaries
- SEED payments: 1,105 beneficiaries
We are still in the early stages of implementation, with additional initiatives to come on stream this year including expansion of the youth entrepreneurship programme and the internet connectivity programme.
In addition to these economic stimulus measures, Government announced in the 2022 budget, a number of initiatives intended to provide further relief for the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
- In December, police officers, frontline health workers and those who faced the threat of Covid-19 infection by virtue of their job, received an additional pay, while other public officers received an additional half month’s pay
- A cap of $15 has been implemented on the price of gasoline, therefore Government is absorbing anything in excess of that price
- Government has also taken a decision to zero rate the VAT on domestic electricity consumption of up to 500 kilowatt hours and also remove the Environmental Levy for this same category of consumers
- Further, there’s been a 25% reduction in the non-fuel charge per kilowatt hour
- Effective January this year, Government also removed VAT on 5 additional food items
Sisters and brothers, these initiatives are deliberately wide-ranging to ensure that they impact as many Grenadians as possible. These are tough times, but it is important to us, to demonstrate that we love and care for the beautiful people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique by finding some way, however small, to provide relief or shine a ray of hope in this otherwise dark period.
Government is doing a lot but we must also give credit to the value of partnerships which constitute another important pillar of national development – partnerships among stakeholders, partnerships among interest groups, partnerships among regional entities, partnerships with international development organisations.
Government’s ongoing collaboration with the social partners, the recent signing of a new 5-year sustainable development cooperation framework with the United Nations and the longstanding relationship with St George’s University (SGU) are among the top examples of meaningful partnerships that now exists.
It is important for me to highlight the SGU partnership in particular as it is helping to truly transform our country and our people. Through both employment and education, SGU continues to play a very meaningful and valuable role in the Grenadian community.
Specifically, I want to commend SGU for the commitment to further improve access to tertiary education, by providing more medical and undergraduate scholarships to Grenadians. As part of its new agreement with the Government of Grenada, SGU will also provide US $30 million in grant funds based on recent changes to its equity holdings. In addition, SGU has been a faithful friend of Grenada throughout the pandemic, bolstering our medical supplies and collaborating with our health team. Going forward, SGU will also pay for 2 clinical and one public health staff to complement the services provided by our hospitals.
Sisters and brothers, as we look to the future, we must continuously set our sights on overcoming the adversities that threaten to derail our development agenda; safeguarding the livelihoods of our people as they seek to empower themselves and protecting our collective future through conscientious decision-making.
Government, by virtue of its mandate to lead, commits to doing so in the best interest of all Grenadians, but seeks the support of everyone, as together, we steer the ship of development towards the future of a shared vision. Therefore, I urge one and all, to embrace unity as the beacon that will successfully guide this ship, our beloved nation, towards sustainable development.
My friends, our annual independence celebrations provide an opportunity to showcase our national pride and it is therefore quite fitting that I use this occasion to inform you, that Government is planning to embark on an initiative that will more accurately reflect and represent who we are as a people.
We are considering a proposal from the Grenada National Reparations Committee to spearhead the research and make recommendations for the renaming of a number of places in honour of our 50th anniversary of independence in 2024. This initiative will bring monumental change to the national landscape and give greater recognition to many well-deserving Grenadians. We anticipate that it will also help engender an even greater feeling of national pride among Grenadians, and serve as a reminder to our young people of what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.
On this note my friends, let me again say happy independence to all. I pray that God continues to richly bless our people, uniting us in our patriotism to this beautiful land of ours, Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. Remember that I love you all and I encourage you to be safe and continue adhering to the Covid-19 protocols.
I thank you.