Saddled with unsustainable debt and about to sign a letter of intent to implement the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-backed home grown structural adjustment program by the end of this month, the Grenadian government is leaning heavily on nationals in the Diaspora for financial support.
“I think the Diaspora knows more than any one of us in Grenada the way in which they are needed to contribute because they have been doing it for many years,” deputy Prime Minister Elvin Nimrod told Share while in the city last week for the Grenada Association of Toronto (GAT) celebration to mark the Caribbean country’s 40th independence anniversary. “They have been contributing to health care, education, social services and many others areas. I have no reason to doubt they will not continue to do what they have been doing to assist us in these dire economic times. They have been integral to our survival.”
Remittances from nationals in the Diaspora account for nearly one-third of Grenada’s gross national product.
Nimrod said the government is seeking to capitalize on the technical and professional skills of nationals and others in the Diaspora who want to contribute to Grenada’s development.
“In the technological world we are living in today, they don’t have to be in Grenada physically,” said Nimrod. “The other thing is that we are unable to absorb all the bonded students we send on scholarships overseas. I believe the time has come where we have to say to these students when they graduate that we will release you from your bond, but you have to provide some service to our country wherever you are. We simply don’t have the capacity to provide employment for all of the graduates when they come back with skills and training that we need.”
As part of the debt restructuring, the government is seeking to reach a deal with the unions for a three-year wage freeze. If an agreement is not reached, workers could be retrenched.
Though job losses are looming, Nimrod said the New National Party (NNP) government is committed to most of the promises it made after the party – under the leadership of Dr. Keith Mitchell – swept all 15 parliamentary seats in the February 2013 general elections.
“We are trying our best to meet the promises we made in our manifesto,” said 70-year-old Nimrod who graduated from New York Law School and became a member of the Grenada senate in 1997. “We have talked about creating employment and we have since done that, particularly for young people. We have spoken about creating a new economy to provide opportunities for all Grenadians so they can be self-sufficient and we have done that. We have to move away from the culture of depending on government to get everything done. Our people must be empowered to help themselves and our country.”
Grenada achieved independence on February 7, 1974.
The theme of this year’s anniversary is “Uniting our People, Restoring Hope for a Brighter Tomorrow.”
Nimrod was the feature speaker at the GAT gala which was attended by several CARICOM diplomats, including consuls general Michael Willius (St. Lucia) and Haynesley Benn (Barbados) and St. Kitts & Nevis’ honorary consul John Allen.
“We are not only looking at unity between and among Grenadians, but unity for the whole Caribbean,” Nimrod said. “More than ever we need this as we see our big brothers abroad kind of relinquishing their traditional responsibilities to help us. As a result, we have to work together and we have to stand on our own feet.”
The Australian government recently broke a promise to fund the construction of a new Grenada parliament building to replace the structure destroyed by Hurricane Ivan a decade ago.
Additional celebrations in Toronto to mark Grenada’s independence anniversary include a literary exposition on February 22 at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, 6 Garamond Ct. from 2-8 p.m. and a “Spice it up Soiree” on March 7 at On the Rox, 1600 Steeles Ave. W. in Vaughan.
The Grenada consulate in Toronto has been without a leader since last November when Jenny Gumbs stepped down as honorary consul general after eight years.
Patricia Clarke, the alternate representative to the Organization of American States and counsellor based in Washington has been acting until a replacement is appointed.