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NDC Heartbeat: Call for urgent changes to CBI law and programme

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It is an accepted truth that corruption is damaging to the reputation of a country. It negatively affects direct local and foreign investment, thereby stultifying economic growth and sustainable development.

Corruption undermines democratic institutions, justice and the rule of law. Perhaps the most damaging aspect of corruption is that it hurts the poor and vulnerable more than any other sector of the economy. When our most vulnerable people are made to depend on corrupt politicians for economic and social support that should be delivered in an impartial, non-partisan way by government, then they become beholden to these politicians and feel that they must keep them in power. A vicious cycle of poverty and rampant corruption continues.

It is no secret that Mitchell’s long-lasting legacy will be that of corruption, which seems to follow him everywhere and bringing the country into disrepute. His legacy will also be one of being very efficient at winning elections but dismal at good, responsible, accountable, transparent government. He will be notoriously remembered for literally selling us out. From our prized real estate such as the Mt Hartman, Levera, Lagoon and Grand Anse Beach (Radisson) properties; to our oil and gas resources and our good name with the fiasco that was the offshore banking sector; and our birthright in the sale of our prized passports to conmen and fraudsters.

In 2001, we lost our special status of visa-free travel to Canada. This was as a direct consequence of the then Keith Mitchell government insisting on pursuing an Economic Citizenship Programme (much like the CBI), despite repeated warnings from the Canadians that undesirables were showing up at their borders with Grenadian passports. Criminals like Van Brink, Vicktor Kosyni and Eric Restiener ended up holding diplomatic Grenadian passports. Our reputation and financial services sector never recovered from that onslaught. Here we are again in 2019, embroiled in another international passport scandal.

Just before the 2018 elections, the organic shrimp farm project was launched in Victoria, St Mark amid much fanfare. In a sick twist of fate, it was to be located on the identical spot as the ill-fated chicken farm which did not produce a feather, despite US$6.9 million disappearing between 2003 and 2004. Grenadian taxpayers had to repay that money as it was a government-guaranteed loan.

Based on the information we now have, we know that it was not a genuine launch but “a big rah rah” because the elections were coming and government needed to announce something big. That is what Leo Ford, one of the men behind the project admitted in the Al Jazeera report. It seems to us in the NDC that this project was a sham all along. The many grandiose promises associated with the shrimp farm were never going to materialise, and the investors probably knew that from the beginning. The website for the farm promised 400 jobs but in the report, Leo Ford said it was going to be just 100.

Prime Minister Mitchell asked us to trust him on this one. He said these were good, legitimate people and that he too was an investor. He said this to encourage people to believe him, and they did especially since this was a CBI project and he is the CBI Minister. He is responsible for ensuring that crooks don’t end up with our passports or ruin our country’s reputation. Now it turns out, again, he has breached the people’s trust. According to the Al Jazeera report, someone has disappeared with US$18 million of investors’ money.

Our country’s reputation is not only dragged in the mud once more, but these investors can very well sue our government for their monies and once more, the taxpayers of this country will have to pay.

In February of this year, Mitchell promised an inquiry into this fiasco. Since then, we’ve heard absolutely nothing about this. We still do not know who the investigators are, if they did any work and what their findings were. This state of affairs is just untenable. Government must be accountable to the people. That is what good governance is all about.

Mitchell must remember that in the OECS and the wider Caribbean, Grenada has always been a leader. Mitchell is now a regional political elder who the younger Caribbean leaders will look to, especially given his success rate at the polls. Is this the kind of leadership we want to emulate to our Caribbean people? No wonder so many of the other younger leaders in the Eastern Caribbean are now being labelled as corrupt. They are emulating Mitchell!

The NDC calls on the Government of Grenada to conduct a public, transparent inquiry into this matter and to make all the findings available to the people. We must know who, if any, of our government and public officials were involved in what now looks like a scam. We must know, who among the principals are out there with our passports.

Finally, the NDC appreciates that there are many countries of the world that run clean, transparent CBI programmes. In fact, when we left office, we were in the process of engaging the same company that helps the Canadian government with their programme. Canada has one of the best and most respected programmes in the world. No country can run a proper CBI programme if the officials are corrupt.

NDC, therefore, demands that there be substantial changes to the CBI law now! These must include:

  1. Making it a criminal offence, punishable by long jail time, to sell diplomatic passports.
  2. Making it mandatory for the names, addresses and countries of origin of all persons and their dependents applying for and obtaining CBI status to be published. Re-enact section 15(3)(b) of the CBI law.
  3. Making it illegal for government officials to invest in CBI approved projects. That is a clear conflict of interest.
  4. Requiring stringent due diligence that is not influenced by government officials.
  5. Removing some of the powers of the Minister into the hands of independent, qualified personnel.
  6. Barring persons acquiring CBI status from being able to vote at elections.

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Co-op Bank and Grenada Nurses Association commence new relationship

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On 5 December 2019, Grenada Co-operative Bank Limited and the Grenada Nurses Association Inc. (GNA Inc.) forged a new business relationship.

At a ceremony held at the bank’s head office on Thursday, 5 December 2019, the two organisations signed a Memorandum of Understanding that offers preferred terms and conditions to members of the GNA Inc. and their spouses when seeking credit facilities from Co-op Bank.

Signing on behalf of Co-op Bank was the bank’s Chief Operating Officer, Deon Moses, while President of the GNA Inc., Nurse Patricia Strachan, executed on behalf of the nurses.

Nurse Strachan stated that this agreement is first of its kind for the association and described the occasion as a “great moment”, especially as there are limited opportunities existing for nurses. She believes this will enable members to become more empowered to advance and invest in their development once this opportunity is tapped into.

Moses reaffirmed Co-op Bank’s commitment to help build our local economy and people, and sees this relationship as another way it is manifested. He also pointed to the bank’s mission statement which highlights the bank’s commitment to contributing to the wellbeing of citizens where it operates.

Both organisations hope this relationship will be long-lasting and be mutually beneficial.

Co-op Bank

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Cuban nurses to temporarily fill vacancies

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by Linda Straker

  • 30 to 40 nurses from Cuba will be contracted to help fill vacancies within healthcare systems
  • 50 persons will undergo nursing assistants training through National Training Agency

In early 2020 Grenada will be contracting between 30 to 40 nurses from Cuba as a temporary measure to help fill vacancies within the healthcare systems as part of a short-term measure adopted by health administrators aimed at reducing the impact of nurses who are leaving the system and taking up jobs in places like the United Kingdom.

Health Minister Nikolas Steele said government is finalising arrangements for the nurses following the visit of a delegation to Grenada a few weeks ago. “This is a stop-gap measure,” he said, admitting that over the years nurses with experience are leaving the system. “Unfortunately, we are losing our nurses to first world countries,” he said. He did not share the number of nurses who have left the system in most recent times.

Besides Cuba, Steele said that Grenada is also looking to import nurses from Ghana and India. The final agreement will include housing for the nursing professionals.

While the government will be importing the qualified registered nurses and those of high-level qualification, Steele said that 50 persons are desirous of becoming nursing assistants while undergoing a one-year training through one of the certified national training centres of the National Training Agency (NTA).

“We are still on schedule for a January start of our nursing assistants programme. We are in final negotiations with La Boucan and the national training authority of Grenada as well as our Ministry of Youth and Education to finalise the training of 50 nursing assistants, in two batches of 25,” the minister said.

The curriculum is expected to meet the criteria of the Nursing Council, the National Training Agency and the Ministry of Health. The training will involve both theory and practical.

La Boucan Creative Centre is owned and operated by former Health Minister Ann Peters, and her husband Francis Urias Peters. As a recognised national training centre, its programme will be accredited by the National Accreditation Board.

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China proving EC$34.8 million in aid to Grenada

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by Linda Straker

  • EC$38.4 million in aid will fund Cricket Stadium renovation and other projects
  • Over 1,800 Grenadians have attended training courses in China
  • Chinese government has implemented several China-Aid framework projects

China is to provide EC$38.4 million in aid to the Government Grenada which will see the funding used for the Cricket Stadium renovation and other projects.

On 9 December, Dr Zhao Yongchen, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Grenada and Hon. Peter David, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Labour of Grenada signed the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of Grenada.

According to the agreement, the Chinese government will provide a grant fund of 100 million Chinese RMB yuan (EC$38.4 million) to the Grenadian government to implement the Cricket Stadium Renovation Project and other projects.

Ambassador Zhao Yongchen said that under China-Aid framework, the Chinese government has implemented many projects for Grenada such as Low-Income Housing Project, Rebuilding of Grenada National Cricket Stadium and Athletic Stadium, and Technical Cooperation on Agriculture.

A statement from the Chinese Embassy in Grenada said that since 2005 more than 200 Grenadian students have studied in China sponsored by the Chinese government and over 1,800 Grenadians have attended seminars or short-term training courses in China.

The Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark visited Grenada twice, providing free medical service to the Grenadian people. The Chinese government also donated police vehicles and medical equipment to the Grenadian government.

“All these projects are funded by the Chinese government grant assistance. He hopes the signing of the agreement will further enhance the bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road initiative and promote the social and economic development of Grenada,” the statement said.

Minister David, on behalf of the Grenadian government, expressed his sincere appreciation to the Chinese government and people for the generous assistance. He acknowledged the support from the Chinese government to Grenada in infrastructure, education, sports and many other areas and said that Grenada is willing to deepen the cooperation with China under the Belt and Road initiative.

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