066_G17_InFocus_Grenada

Global_17

In Focus Grenada Grenada Grand Roy • St George’s • Grand Bay • Carriacou and Petite Martinique Hillsborough • • Tivoli • Blaize • Marquis • St David’s Like other countries located on small islands, extreme weather is a concern for Grenada. In 2004 hurricane Ivan devastated the islands, destroying four out of every fi ve houses; fl attening cocoa and nutmeg trees; washing away roads; and knocking out electricity and telecoms connections. The islanders seized on the opportunity to improve housing and agriculture in the wake of the hurricane, with the Mitchellled government coining the slogan ‘Building back better’. “Within three years, we were able to build back most of our homes, so that was seen as a miraculous activity from the standpoint of where we were. We’re not yet back at the level of production we had prior to Ivan, because a nutmeg tree takes about eight to ten years to produce and cocoa about four to fi ve years, so we’re seeing an increase in production, but it will take another couple of years to get back to where we were.” Grenada has also learnt lessons from Ivan’s destructive force, such as improving its disaster response planning. “We have been used by the international community Key data  Population: 105,000 (2011)  Ethnicity: Predominantly African descent (82%), mixed African/European descent (13%). The remainder of the population is made up of small European and Asian groups  Life expectancy: 76 years  Land area: 344.5 sq km  GDP: US$790 million (2012)  GDP percentage growth: 0.2% pa 2007-11  Primary school enrolment: 87% (2009) We have seen the devastating e ect that climate change can have and we have also seen serious ooding as a model for building back better after destruction,” explains Mitchell. “And I would say we are far better prepared today to deal with any disasters. We have regular sessions to train ourselves for events like storm surges and earthquakes.” He attended an environmental summit in the British Virgin Islands in May 2013, which saw leaders and commercial partners pledge to protect marine life and develop sustainable energy sources to curtail reliance on fossil fuels. “We have seen the devastating effect that climate change can have,” says Mitchell, “and we have also seen serious fl ooding – sea surges that have destroyed infrastructure. We’ve been putting up sea walls around the country, which has cost, of course, an enormous amount.” With a population of just 105,000 – encompassing the island of Grenada and the Southern Grenadines – the nation of Grenada is one of the smallest countries in the Commonwealth. There are pros and cons to being a small country, says Mitchell. “As I said earlier, because of its size, any serious initiative can make a serious dent on the level of employment in the country. It’s also easy to implement ICT – it’s easier to implement a platform and get that penetration in a small country. With the advent of agriculture as a main thrust towards development, with our small size it’s not diffi cult to involve technology in our modernisation, compared to doing that in a large country. With health care too, it doesn’t cost as much as it would in a bigger country to make a serious dent in the country’s health care problems.” As a small nation, however, it can be diffi cult to have a signifi cant impact on the international stage. “On the negative side, in an independent country there’s a certain amount of infrastructure that has to be in place. It is diffi cult, fi nancially and otherwise, for a country like Grenada to have embassies all over the place and to support that. We have an embassy in London, one of the most expensive places in the world. Each of the small countries have an embassy here. The British government has one embassy in Barbados that serves all of us. We have to do something about that, there’s no way we can maintain it. So that’s the problem with being a small country – having the resources to do things that you would like to do to support an independent nation.” Grenada tries hard to make its presence felt in the sporting world, so Mitchell has high hopes for the country’s performance in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Kirani James brought the country its fi rst ever Olympic gold medal in the 2012 games when he won the 400 metres. “I was in the stadium and I’ve never felt better as a person,” says Mitchell proudly. “I wasn’t Prime Minister at the time, but the whole country went up. We also do well in cricket, football and other areas.” Mitchell values the work that the Commonwealth does. He has attended several Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings and says that the organisation has helped Grenada to modernise its society. “The ability to advance Grenada’s success within the context of the Commonwealth of Nations has been a major plus for us. We have consistently been involved in all levels of Commonwealth activities and we have a rich history of democratic institutions.” The next step in Grenada’s development is to reform its constitution – a relic from its colonial past. A national referendum will take place to make the reformed constitution genuinely representative of 21st-century Grenada and its people. The country celebrates its 40th anniversary of independence from Britain this year. Celebrations are planned at home and abroad – another nod to the importance of the diaspora community. “We normally have an independence ceremony each year on 7 February, which should be really massive this year. As Prime Minister, I’ll be fl ying to New York, to Toronto, to London – to the major centres where there is a high concentration of diaspora. “Having constitutional reform will be crucial, because we must recognise after 40 years where our areas of weakness are, and give our people decisions on how we modernise our constitution to deal with future generations.” 66 l www.global -br ief ing.org f i rst quar ter 2014 global 


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