Grenada’s Government Revenue Takes Big Hit from COVID-19

ST.GEORGE’S, Grenada, Aug 18, CMC – The Grenada government says it has been forced to revise downwards the revenue projects for 2020 as it severely criticised persons who recently defied health measures and protocols and staged carnival activities amid the continued efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell in a national radio and television broadcast on Monday night, said that the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19 continues to manifest itself in different ways. “Government has now revised downwards, revenue initially proposed in the 2020 budget, given the projected 40 per cent or more in reduction on average in revenue collected by both the Inland Revenue and Customs Department and other areas of revenue generation.”

Mitchell said that the Ministry of Finance has now projected that based on the present revenue collections, “we will collect EC$181 million (One EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) less than what was projected and expected if we did not have COVID-19.

“Accordingly, 2020 expenditure must be brought in line. This means that the budgets of most Ministries will have to be adjusted to deal with the revenue reduction, and measures such as streamlining discretionary recurrent expenditure, stricter man-power management and waste reduction initiatives must be implemented,” he added.

Mitchell, who is also Finance Minister, said that to help create jobs and stimulate the economy, his administration will place significant emphasis on aggressively implementing capital projects that are funded by external grants and loans.

He said the Ministry of Implementation and the Department of Economic and Technical Cooperation in the Ministry of Finance, will continue to collaborate to ensure an improved rate of project implementation across the entire country.

He said the contract valued at EC$46.8 million was recently awarded for 11 agriculture feeder roads and that other capital projects already underway or to come on stream shortly, include improvement of the St. Patrick’s road network, the Western Main Road Corridor upgrade, the SDA Comprehensive School, Bishops’ College, Presentation Brothers’ College, the General Hospital refurbishment Phase 2 project, the Extreme Rainfall Project which seeks to stabilize six slopes on the western corridor.

He said these projects represent an investment of close to EC$250 million and will create at least 800 jobs.

Mitchell said he is also expecting “significant activity in the private sector” and that the initial stages of work on the EC$300 million hotel project by Range Developments in St. David and the over one billion EC dollar Grenada National Resort Project in St. Patrick are now underway.

“Both projects are expected to transform the rural economy, creating hundreds of jobs both during construction and upon completion. In addition,” he said, noting that the company that constructed the five-star Silver Sands Resort here, has plans to construct a first class luxury hotel at Port Louis, together with other ancillary, leisure, retail and hospitality related facilities.

He said the company also has plans for other projects here including a five-star Eco spa resort.

But Mitchell said “even as we see several glimmers of hope” he is “painfully aware that this unprecedented crisis has left many feeling hopeless and frustrated.

He said the government, through the Ministry of Social Development is committed to helping citizens to deal with psycho-social issues and that the Psycho-Social Unit is now offering 24-hour service online to provide counselling for persons dealing with stress and depression.

Mitchell said what is also troubling is the situation where violence seems to be the first option for settling disputes.

“My friends, we must endeavour to exercise more restraint when faced with disputes. Since the start of 2020, Grenada has recorded 13 homicides which is above average and a source of major concern. One violent death is one too many. Today, therefore, I implore upon all to walk away from situations in which you will be tempted to react violently,” he said.

In his broadcast, Mitchell said he was disappointed that while the authorities were doing much to prevent the spread of the virus, persons had taken to the streets in Carnival celebrations even though the annual spectacle had been cancelled.

“We all know that mass gatherings could present a formidable threat in this health crisis. Like you, I missed the revelry of the season,” he said, adding “when government went to Parliament to legislate for the removal of the two-day holidays that are usually carded for carnival this year, we did that only out of genuine concern for the health of the people of our country.

“The government has a fundamental responsibility to protect the citizens of this country. We took an oath to do so, and we cannot and will not shirk that responsibility, even if some of the decisions we make are unpopular in some circles, and may even result in the loss of some political support.

“So government sought to be lenient, understanding the people’s right to socialize, even in these very difficult times. But I was shocked to see despite all health warnings, people still assembled in droves, and did the complete opposite, flouting all protocols and regulations in the name of having a good time”

Mitchell said that he was “very concerned about what transpired,” adding “are we aware of the serious implications of our actions? Are we paying attention to what is happening in the outside world, even if we have been fortunate enough to keep the numbers down and avoid any deaths?”

Mitchell said that many countries were now experiencing a second wave of the pandemic and made particular reference to Trinidad and Tobgao, where in recent days had recorded several deaths and a significant spike in positive cases of the virus.

He said the Keith Rowley administration is contemplating implementing fines for persons not wearing masks in public adding “this is something I am very concerned about.

“Everywhere I go, I see people wearing no mask. Even in my own constituency, I have seen it. Sisters and brothers, can we really afford to go back to the stage where our freedom is restricted because of our own irresponsible actions?

“We do not know everything about this virus, as I have constantly said, so where is our sense of responsibility? Our cultural Ambassadors must also understand their fundamental responsibility to law and order, and they cannot be seen as breaking the law of the land, and if that is allowed, then we would have descended into a lawless state and as Prime Minister, I cannot condone such,” Mitchell added.

CMC

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