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Grenada PM calls for unity to build country
NEW YORK—Newly-elected Grenada Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell has called for all hands on deck and unity in rebuilding the tri-island nation. During a town hall meeting at Brooklyn College on Saturday, Mitchell, whose New National Party (NNP) swept the polls in the historic February 19 general elections, urged all nationals to come on board in addressing the country’s dire economic plight.
"We’ve had a lot of wars in our country, we’ve had our fights – who don’t like me and who don’t like you – but we must love Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique,” Mitchell said in his first official visit to the United States since his return to power. “I say to bury the hatchet,” he added. “As we begin this new journey, let the guiding light be for our little land. We will not make progress if we don’t stop fighting each other,” he warned.
The Grenadian leader said while numerous economic challenges lie ahead, his first priority is the creation of “jobs, jobs, jobs,” stating that the nation “almost lost a generation of young people” because many of them have nothing to do. Since assuming office, Mitchell has been meeting with creditors and investors in a bid to restructure the island’s public debt and put the country on a sound path to economic recovery. Mitchell, who is also minister of finance, said the island’s national debt has skyrocketed to US$2.2 billion.
On Friday, Grenada’s Ministry of Finance said the economy has been severely affected by the global financial crisis. It said despite debt restructuring in 2005 and reforms implemented over the last five years under International Monetary Fund (IMF)-supported programmes, the island has been unable to recover fully from the devastation wrought by hurricanes Ivan and Emily in 2004 and 2005, respectively. The Finance Ministry said an increasingly difficult financing situation in the second half of 2012 prevented Grenada from paying the September coupon on its US Dollar Bond on the due date.
The Grenada Government said with further borrowing no longer a viable option, it will not have the resources to pay the coupons on its US Dollar and EC Dollar Bonds 2025 due on Friday. According to Mitchell, the country has exhausted the credit of St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia in the ECCB (Eastern Caribbean Central Bank). But despite the dire economic status quo, he said Forbes magazine reported last week that a potential investor plans to pump about US$700 million into Grenada. “Because they know there’s a government now that’s serious,” said Mitchell, adding that three major hotel investors are also planning to return to the island. He said over the next few months, several projects will be announced, disclosing that oil and gas exploration will be “the biggest” among them. (CMC)