Old people say proverbially, “the upholder is worse than the thief”. The criminal reality is about a person who is involved in aiding and abetting, or being an accomplice of an offence. This colluding and concealing of crimes is often conducted by pretending or lying, by professional reasoning or explaining and by devising public relation propaganda. Such persons would also display pomposity and take comfort in family names, institutional affiliations, religious followings, academic credentials, and vocational standings to swindle and subdue especially the gullible, vulnerable and less fortunate. A sad specific thought is that a liar is worse than a thief; also noting that the liar may even kill to defend his / her thief. Moreover, it can be destructive and bleak when a person who is in authority has traits of a thief and a liar, which is generally the accepted case applied to corrupt politicians. Mysteriously; corrupt politicians enjoy diplomatic immunity and escape criminal consequences, and together with their cohorts continue to bleed the nation’s treasury and to mount public debts on the masses.
Generally a Prime Minister is merely the frontline figure on national governance. Quite often he or she is directed, motivated and propelled by advisors, financiers and ‘behind the scenes’ actors who can be more brutal, insensitive and rigid in political approaches and applications than the prime minister. With this understanding; could Dr Patrick Antoine, who possibly was the Chief Strategist and Advisor on ‘financial economics’ to Dr Keith Mitchell’s New National Party (NNP) for over two decades, be most ‘personally liable’ for the “plague” of suffering and shame brought on the Grenadian people? Are the people prepared for a Double ‘Patrick’ Whammy experience with Antoine as prime minister of Grenada; especially when it may be argued that he was keenly instrumental with ‘if any’ falsification of statistical data, failed economic policies, fishy investment projects, mortgaged national assets, and detrimental public service sector reforms under the NNP-government?
As ‘founder, spokesman, chairperson and star’ of The Grenada Movement (TGM), Dr Antoine has been rationalizing the establishment of TGM and the perspective for its political evolution, in terms of “the global economy the regional economy and our own (‘Grenada’s) economy in crisis”. He proclaims; “… to take our country out of the difficult times that lie ahead … what is required which is a new vision for the development in our country, so it’s a new development vision that we’re (‘TGM’s circle’) after … a vision that recognizes that the world is not going to go back to the way it was and a vision too that also establishes that we need to fix … the several things that prior to COVID we did not believe worked well and many of which did not work well and set the country on a new trajectory …“. However; does being a ‘reformed and repentant’ technical patriot, necessitate Antoine’s best position for meaningful and constructive inputs to “a new (‘national’) development vision” has to be the Head of the political leadership? Is Antoine discrediting the role, influence and success of TGM in its mode as a ‘public policy’ Non-Governmental Organisation, to “set the country on a new trajectory”?
A national actor in the field of economics is concerned mainly about capital development, gross domestic product and monetary reserves of the State; also with a strong focus for facilitating the interests of the business sector, and includes attracting foreign investors. Unfortunately; many political decisions on those areas are taken and executed without a social conscience for the society, which is typical of the financial lending agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Extensive controversial undertakings are expeditiously pursued without impact assessments and risk analyses, as well as the due diligence processes, which are necessary especially for those undertakings with the tendency to affect negatively community livelihood, general welfare, workers dignity, national sustainability and archeological preservation. The training, work and exposure of Dr Antoine as an Economist, must also be considered when analyzing the ‘bad’ management practices by the NNP-government on the resources and ecology of Grenada, which contributed greatly to the crisis in the country.
TGM’s 2021 Labour Day solidarity statement raises workers as constituting “a key component of the production and productivity vital to trade and economic activity”, and expresses its concern for “a worrying state of affairs … with regard to labour rights … also … attitudes towards the labour movement”. Has TGM factored the ‘big’ involvement of Dr Antoine in the December 2011 to February 2012 tense industrial impasse between the Technical and Allied Workers Union and Grenada Breweries Limited? With this acknowledgement and Antoine’s experience, shouldn’t TGM in journeying to the political sphere, have already declared its policies about the labour movement, showing how those policies would benefit the working class; recall the previous circulated article “Would the Working Class Prosper with The Grenada Movement?” Particularly; the position of TGM toward the Public Service, for respecting the constitutional provisions and for enabling justice and prosperity for public officers must be ascertained. Any honest intent of TGM’s “call on the Government and all employers to treat workers with respect and consideration” would also witness Antoine accounting for his role in helping to cause the “worrying state of affairs” of the Public Service, via the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
The Grenadian people continue to be socially, economically and mentally battered by the Home Grown IMF-supported SAP of austere measures including tough taxation, and with no sign of reasonable relief in the near future. Is Dr Antoine with his TGM sufficiently credible to provide the imperative hope for relief? The SAP heavily strikes the Public Service, spurring its collapse and that of the public service sector trade unions; a most cunning legislative tool employed been the Fiscal Responsibility Act. The injurious effects of SAP are evident with the state of the administrative structures and procedures, the delivery of public services, and the morale and performance of public officers. Particularly; the attrition of permanent staff and the promoting of contract workers frustrate the core elements related to the technical capacity for national survivability and sustainability, as reflected in the mess and misery in the teaching service, medical service, agricultural service and legal service.
Is Dr Antoine determined to blossom as a politician with gratuities and pensions under the July 1989, Pension (Members of Parliament) Act, whilst upholding the constitutional abuse of public officers on pension-benefits under the April 1983 Pensions (Disqualification) Act? Antoine needs to refute that most possibly, he formed part of the ‘betrayal and hypocrisy’ by his advices to the Government Negotiating Team, on salary increases and restoration of pensions for public officers; some of the pertinent issues are brought-out in the referred internet articles, “The Upholder Is Worse Than The Thief” by Brian J. M. Joseph, and “Grenada’s Pensions Dispute Echoing Send The Fool Farther On!” Antoine also needs to answer for the hurt posed on retirees and poor beneficiaries, by whatsoever advice that he may have given the Government for its refusal to honour the recommendations of the various actuarial reports on the National Insurance Scheme, for increases in pensions and grants in accordance with inflation. Review article “Grenadians Should Protest Increase in NIS Contribution”.
The internet-circulated article “The Grenada Movement Must Be Challenged” lays the platform for every decent and serious person, even those gravitating to and assembling with him, to quiz Dr Antoine on the host of socio-economic development policies which he had offered the Government and on what has caused the existing crisis in our own economy. The success of political parties at elections is driven to a large extent by the labour movement, including relatives and friends of the workers. Public officers including the contracted professional workers, form a strong bedrock for votes; and it is noted that teachers have been responsible for putting the Mitchell’s NNP in government. No doubt TGM may be wooing the public service sector trade unions, especially considering the newly installed executives of the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT) and the Public Workers Union (PWU). Those officials however, must be alert and guarded with forceful demands; also considering their past falling for fake agreements and elections gimmicks, and failings for not holding the politicians accountable.
Public Officers must never forget the possibly “necessary evil” application of Dr Antoine on their struggles for wages. The present situation surrounding the protracted four percent increases issue, including the docked monies in November 2018 for taking strike-actions, which the Government blames on the decline in revenues due to COVID-19, is a classical repetition of the tactics by the NNP-government. Workers confronted similar ‘arrogant and deceitful behaviour’ on the National Reconstruction Levy in 2005 as an apparent excuse not to meet public officers negotiated salary increases. Is TGM signaling what is expected on those matters, when it calls upon the “labour unions to develop themselves … the challenges facing workers today are often broader and deeper than in the years gone by, and require relevant approaches … “, within the parameters of “the world is not going to go back to the way it was”? The necessary adjustments for facing the new realities would also be about the impact of Digital Technology in changing the employment form and culture, as well as the labour relation protocols. Thus, TGM and all other parties aiming to govern Grenada’s economy need to elaborate on those matters as policies, whilst public sector trade unions in particular must take an active part in such debates.
By J K Roberts, Sound Public Policies Advocate