By Linda Straker
BROOKLYN, NY – The Grenada government has announced a EC$36 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37) economic stimulus package that is expected to benefit close to 9,000 nationals directly as well as 10,000 indirectly.
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, in a radio and television broadcast on Thursday night, said that the government is in the advanced stages of preparation for the implementation of the package that is being funded through the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) under the Inter-American Development Bank-CDB Global Loan Programme and the Grenada government.
He said that the support program is expected to roll out in September.
“The stimulus package will target vulnerable persons, who are most impacted by the (Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and will include, but not limited to, persons in the cultural sector whose livelihood depends almost exclusively on cultural activities, farmers, agro-processors, caterers, operators of entertainment centers, former cruise ship workers, taxi drivers, water taxi operators, tourist vendors, bus operators, former hotel employees, and LIAT workers,” Mitchell said.
He said beneficiaries would receive support ranging from one-off payments to monthly transfers for up to six months, based on the category of eligibility.
“Government was very diligent in designing this program and engaged in broad-based consultation with stakeholders in the public and private sectors, as well as the CDB, to ensure the widest possible reach for the stimulus support package,” Mitchell said, adding that further details of the package and the categories of beneficiaries will be shared by the Ministry of Finance, in the coming weeks.
The Prime Minister said that this new program of support is in addition to other measures already taken by his government to stimulate job creation and economic activity.
He said Cabinet recently approved several initiatives to support the expansion of existing micro, small and medium enterprises and create new ones.
“More than EC$12 million is currently available for lending on extremely concessional terms and conditions. Additionally, the government will make two million dollars for small hoteliers and five million dollars for small businesses in other sectors through the COVID-19 Support Fund Facility at the Grenada Development Bank (GDB).
He said that eligible businesses will qualify for loans between EC$40,000 and EC$300,000 and that the facility provides “what can be considered a lifeline for the next three years to the eligible businesses, enabling them to stay afloat and or expand, or to encourage startups.”
Mitchell said that the government would also inject an additional five million dollars to the Small Business Development Fund to support the development of micro-enterprises.
“These businesses can qualify for loans of up to EC$40,000. Both lines of credit at the Grenada Development Bank offer an attractive interest rate of one percent, with a grace period of up to three years. The loans for micro-enterprises are repayable over 10 years, while the repayment period for the larger loans is 12 years.
“As an additional incentive, loan recipients in both categories can benefit from an additional EC$5,000 in grant support to further bolster business operations,” Mitchell said, adding that his administration is working to create opportunities and empowering people, especially during this pandemic era.
“Clearly, we are committed to creating an enabling environment that fuels citizen-centric growth. I am confident that the funding facilities at GDB will help to boost economic activity and create hundreds of new jobs.”
Mitchell said that in addition to incentivizing small business development, the government is also stimulating direct job creation.
He said since the start of the pandemic, some workers who were routinely employed by the government have not had the opportunity to earn a single day’s pay.
“It is not easy to see your people hurting, especially the poorest among us, and feel powerless to help. Therefore, as a government for and of the people, we continue to work to help as many people as possible.
“Government has just embarked on a massive de-bushing program, to which just over EC$14 million has been allocated. Over the next 10 fortnights, more than 3,000 Grenadians will be dispatched to assigned areas across the country to trim overhanging branches and clear roadsides and drains. The workers will be divided into seven-member crews, which will be monitored by a group of 128 supervisors, each of whom will be assigned three crews,” he said.
He said that the latest initiative should not be viewed as a political ploy, adding “there will be fairness in the distribution of work among people.
“I have made it clear to party supporters that this is not a party program; this is implemented by the government of Grenada for the benefit of all eligible persons, regardless of their political or other affiliation. I have gone a step further and authorized the creation of a hotline where reports can be made if the true intention of the program is not being followed,” Mitchell said
“This is not a time for party politics; this is a time for all of us, as Grenadians, as custodians of this beautiful country of ours, to work together for the benefit of all. No one citizen has a greater right than any other; what we do have is a collective responsibility to make the right decisions now that will create a legacy for future generations of this country.
“In this long and enduring partnership, the government continues to fulfill its obligations to the hard-working people of this country, including public officers. We have committed to begin paying the four percent salary increase to public officers,” Mitchell said, adding that the increase will be reflected in the monthly salaries from the end of August 2021.
“You would recall that the increase became due in January of this year, but due to the economic fallout from the pandemic, the government requested a delay. It means, therefore, that there’s a seven-month period for which public officers are owed increases, and the government will issue one-year bond payments for the amount owed.
“We acknowledge the agreement of police officers and the security forces thus far, and I assure you that the payments will be processed with the August payroll. Public officers, many of you have been patient, and I commend you for that and your continued service to the people of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique.”
Mitchell told the nation that many public servants had been concerned about the pension disqualification issue.
“As you are all aware, this matter is currently before the court, and Government will accept and respect whatever judgment is delivered. It is important to remember that this Government is not responsible for pension disqualification.”
He said that the issue has existed for many years, and successive governments, including those that led the ruling New National Party (NNP), failed to address it.
“Acting on a deep sense of moral responsibility, this administration agreed to tackle the issue of pension reform, a bold move and one that is cost-prohibitive, but also one that we feel is in the best interest of our long-serving and dedicated public officers.
“There are many issues that threaten to divide us and distract us from forging ahead with the development agenda, but in closing, sisters, and brothers, I am compelled to encourage us all to continue to work hand in han