Dr. The Hon. Keith C. Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique
GRENADA: READINESS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Chairman: George L. Cooke, President, The Empire Club of Canada
Head Table Guests
Thomas L. Wells, President, T.L.W. Consulting, former Ontario Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada; Rev. Kim Beard, Rector, Christ Church, Brampton; Sandy Cabral, Student, President, Student Council, Monarch Park Collegiate Institute; Alvin Curling, MPP, Scarborough North; George Bullen, High Commissioner, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States; Jean Augustine, MP, Etobicoke-Lakeshore; Catherine Charlton, Chair, Royal Commonwealth Society, Toronto Branch and a Past President, The Empire Club of Canada; Michael Viechweg, Consul General of Grenada; and Sandra Whiting, President, Black Business and Professional Association and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.
Introduction by George L. Cooke
We are indeed pleased to have with us today, Dr. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique. If there had been any doubt--pending the outcome of the January 18 elections--that Dr. Mitchell would be speaking today as the incumbent Prime Minister, it was certainly erased with the results of his landslide victory.
Dr. Mitchell is visiting Toronto to participate, as guest of honour, with nationals, their families and friends in the 1999 Independence Silver Jubilee Celebrations, marking Grenada's 25 years of independence, since February 7, 1974.
In his capacity as Prime Minister, Dr. Mitchell has served as Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) from January to July 1998, as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Caribbean Development Bank from May 1997 to May 1998, and has been responsible for Science and Technology and Human Resource Development for CARICOM since July 1995.
Dr. Mitchell became a Member of Parliament in 1984. He served as Minister of Works, Communications and Public Utilities in the New National Party government from 1984-1989 and continued as an Opposition Member of Parliament. He was elected political leader of the New National Party in 1989. He successfully led the NNP to victory in the 1995 general elections and became Prime Minister on June 22, 1995.
Dr. Mitchell led the NNP to an unprecedented victory on January 18, winning all 15 constituencies and being the first Prime Minister since independence to win two consecutive general elections.
Dr. Mitchell attended the University of the West Indies, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and chemistry in 1971, followed by a Masters degree in mathematics from Howard University and a Doctorate in mathematics and statistics from the American University.
Dr. Mitchell was a teacher at the Presentation Brothers College from 1972 to 1973 and a mathematics professor at Howard University from 1977 to 1983. He also worked as a professional consultant to several government and private corporations in the United States.
Dr. Mitchell's primary interest outside politics appears to be in the field of sports, specifically cricket. He is an avid cricket player and fan and supports many sporting events through personal sponsorships.
Dr. Mitchell is currently writing textbooks for ordinary and advanced level mathematics.
Dr. Mitchell, his wife Marietta and son Olinga reside in Granada. Dr. Mitchell, welcome to The Empire Club of Canada.
In the first place let me express my sincere appreciation to the President and members of The Empire Club of Canada for inviting me to be the guest speaker at this prestigious luncheon meeting. This meeting comes on the heels of an overwhelming victory of my party, the New National Party (NNP), at the January 18 polls in Grenada. For the first time in our nation's history, a party has won all the available seats in the House of Representatives.
I believe that one of the main reasons for our astounding victory is that the Grenadian people have recognised the NNP to be the only party with a vision and with credible and attainable plans to position Grenada for advancement in the 21st century.
For my part, I have spent many years in North America having studied and worked there. I decided, over 20 years ago, that I had to return to Grenada to bring positive change to the land of my birth and, as fate would have it, I have been the Prime Minister since June 20, 1995. I am committed to raising the standard of living of my tiny island nation. Over the next seven years, our plan is to double our existing per-capita income, to achieve sustainable growth and to reduce unemployment by half. We achieved a reduction from 28 per cent to 14 per cent within 3-1/2 years and we plan to reduce this from 14 per cent to less than 6 per cent over the next five years.
We presented to our people a manifesto, which highlighted, among other things, sound economic policy, human resource development, industrialisation and excellent infrastructure by any comparable international standard.
I believe that these areas of focus, together with the fact that Grenada is one of the safest destinations in the entire Western Hemisphere, will have Grenada in a position of readiness to take advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century.
Our economic policy aims to create a sustainable environment within which there will be equality of opportunity for all. We are committed to eliminating unemployment, managing inflation and producing balanced development of the rural community to keep pace with that in the urban centres. We are fully committed to the progressive lowering of taxes in order to make our producers internationally competitive and to stimulate economic activity by placing more disposable wealth in the hands of every Grenadian. One of our first moves was to raise the threshold of personal income tax to such an extent that 98 per cent of Grenadians do not pay any personal income tax.
We have achieved significant surpluses on our current account for every one of the last three years and we are targeting a constant surplus of 3 per cent of GDP in each succeeding year.
In the midst of slow and even negative global growth as predicted by the World Bank/International Monetary Fund for the short to medium term, our economy has witnessed growth of 4, 5 and 6 per cent over the years '96-'98 respectively.
This growth level will be accelerated in order to achieve our GDP targets. Our plan to ensure this includes:
The continued development of a substantial export manufacturing sector. We are committed to diversification away from our traditional primary agricultural products.
The strengthening of the international business services sector, which has been supported by the passage of relevant modern legislation.
The continuation of incentives for the development of agro industries and other agricultural diversification initiatives.
• Development of our tourism sector through the implementation of our tourism master plan and the advent of major tourism investors.
• Sustaining the attractiveness of Grenada by the implementation of stringent environmental standards.
• Development of our industrial capacity.
Human Resource Development
Grenada believes that the key to its competitiveness will be a well-trained and highly educated work force. We believe that the greatest asset that any organisation or country can have is its people. We are fully committed to developing our human resources. Our young men and women, our adults and leaders of tomorrow, must be put in a position where they can compete effectively and successfully with any people, of any other country.
With this target in mind:
Our aim of universal secondary education has been accelerated by the building of more schools, expansion of existing schools and support of economically disadvantaged families.
All secondary schools have been computerised and students have access to the Internet through a local area network. The extent of this exercise is being increased and the primary schools are next to be targeted.
Community centres have now been targeted as centres of learning where more can gain familiarity with modern technology.
Access to university training has been increased through the St. George's University School of Medicine's arts and science programme, in addition to courses geared towards medical technology, hospitality arts, public health and other areas.
An ambitious programme of support has been embarked upon to assist students pursuing university training in North America and the Caribbean. Various training funds have been set up to this end.
Specifically, an industrial training fund has been set up to assist in training and equipping young people for jobs in the expanding industrial sector. These persons are being trained in industries in the United States in order to bring the skills to Grenada. We seek this type of opportunity in Canada for our young people.
We believe that the process of industrialisation is essential to the prosperity of the country. Most of the world's prosperous nations were transformed through this process. Grenada will be no different.
Globalisation, as challenging as it is to small island nations, has brought with it opportunities that can be seized by all, once areas of competitive advantage can be identified. Given the liberalisation of trade causing the removal of barriers to trade, the scope for competitiveness has increased. This has made it easier for goods and "service activities" to cross borders. Essentially, each country can be a part of the production of a particular good, once it can add value to the product at some step in the process.
Countries no longer have to focus on manufacturing completed products, but can concentrate on the production of parts which they can produce in the most cost-effective manner, while maintaining standards. An example is a Grenadian-based company W and W Electronics, which produces electronic "connectors" for use in the Americas and Europe.
We have established that Grenada has a competitive advantage over the North American work force in the area of productivity. This means that once the sophisticated and complex technological platforms are made available to the local work force, production levels will surpass those in the United States. Of course, we are at a disadvantage in the area of energy and telecommunications costs. However, the acceleration of the application of new global trade rules should see a harmonisation of prices in the near future.
Our industrialisation plan will increase export earnings; improve balance of payments; reduce unemployment figures; and create industrial parks in rural areas while extending on existing parks.
The vision of the government is to build a physical infrastructure that is commendable by all international standards. We clearly understand that sound infrastructure must be one of the key components of any national development plan.
A proper road network that is effectively maintained is a vital support to any aspect of the economy, whether it is tourism, agriculture, manufacturing. All our main roads are being built to international standards and our feeder roads are being constantly upgraded.
Our water and sewerage system is showing dramatic improvement as we target that section for US$40 million in development. We have invested in water desalination plants for the main hotel areas and those hardest hit by water shortage. The productive capacity of our water system is being constantly improved. Our aim is that every part of the island must be adequately serviced, including areas of heavy consumption.
Our telecommunications system controlled by cable and wireless is comparable with any in the world. In the near future, the telecommunications system will be open to competition, which will drastically reduce user costs.
Additionally our plans for power supply and port facilities will bring them to international standards. Our ports have either been targeted for improvement or are in the process of being expanded.
Our sporting infrastructure will soon receive a large lift with the completion of our state of the art national stadium in nine months' time. This will certainly benefit our thrust in the area of tourism as one of the allied benefits.
We have targeted the health sector for major reforms to the health-care system, in particular the hospital services. Additionally, construction will begin on a brand new hospital in a few months' time. Health-care concerns for our visitors and aging citizens will soon be a thing of the past.
Governance and Rule of Law
I have decided to end on this note because there have been concerns and demands communicated to Caribbean countries by large countries regarding these areas.
I must emphasise that Grenada has a thriving democracy. We just had a free and fair, non-violent election that was fully monitored by the OAS observers. We have continuously committed ourselves to the pursuit of internationally accepted standards of good governance.
Grenada enjoys a reputation as being one of the safest locations in the Western Hemisphere with regard to crime rate. We are fully committed to ensuring that development does not proceed at the expense of the peace and calm that our citizens enjoy.
Our police force has identified its emphasis on crime prevention and has the full support of the government for necessary resources.
Obviously, Grenada intends to be competitive and will indeed be competitive in the 21st century once our well-laid plans have even moderate success. Actually, Grenada will prove to be one of the safest places for international investment in the 21st century.
In conclusion, let me re-emphasise that we have set our plan in motion to make ready our beautiful country for economic advancement in the 21st century. I have considered main areas of economic policy, infrastructure, industrialisation, human resource development, the environment and general law and order, but I can assure you that we are fully ready.
Of course, we need the help of friendly investors who will surely find good returns on their investments. We know that you are strong in agro industries and we need technology transfer in that area. We need serious investments in hotel development and general tourism and most of all in the area of air transportation.
I invite all serious investors to visit our country and to consider Grenada as a destination for co-operative development.
The appreciation of the meeting was expressed by Sandra Whiting, President, Black Business and Professional Association and a Director, The Empire Club of Canada.