A decade of political uprisings and an incursion by U.S. troops nearly three years ago left the small eastern Caribbean island of Grenada without high hopes for lasting peace and security until sudden democratic elections in 1984.
A prominent member of the ruling opposition in Parliament for nearly 12 years, the newly elected 68-year-old Prime Minister Herbert Blaize decided to consolidate his power base in the country through the creation of a New Nationalist Party.In a recent interview, he discussed his personal struggle to achieve political reconciliation in Grenada. What the three political parties in Grenada - the United Labor Party, the Democratic Labor Party and the Christian Democratic Labor Party - had in common over the years was a general feeling of discontent with just about everything, including each other. Today there is no sense of cohesion, he said, but though problems still exist there is a healthier environment.
When asked about the impact of this political dilemma upon the Grenadian people, Mr. Blaize said, This problem is being dealt with head on by my Cabinet. First and foremost our objective is to stabilize the socio-political fabric of the nation through greater participation of all people in the decision-making process, which can only be achieved through parliamentary democracy.
Though confident of his own political position, he quickly said, It is my objective to lead not drive the people.
Mr. Blaize is well known for not believing in unnecessary frills, banner- waving or empty rhetoric. It would appear that he is applying this same low- key approach to economic reform in his country. Also, there is evidence his efforts to liberalize the economy, which include steps to privatize certain industries, have had positive results
In the agricultural sector, land ownership conversion has been very successful. People work more conscientiously if you provide them with 5- to 10-acre plots and a lease/purchase option on the property, he said.
New types of agricultural products - fresh fruits . . . avocados, papaya, plantains and cut flowers - are being exported to foreign markets. Prior to the Blaize administration, the country was overly dependent on the exports of nutmeg, bananas and cocoa, the prime minister said.
The country also embarked on a program of economic diversification. But Mr. Blaize is mindful of not putting our eggs in one basket, particularly since our new investment statutes encourage private investment.
New incentives - removal of price controls on certain goods, relaxation of foreign exchange restrictions and sweeping tax reform - have started to attract Asian, European and U.S. capital in both agriculture and industry, he added.
Exports of apparel goods are expected to increase as a result of special duty provisions under the U.S.-sponsored Caribbean Basin Initiative now in it's third year of existence.
Although tourism had declined seriously prior to the democratic government, receipts have been rising within the last year. This sector has tremendous potential, he claimed. To attract more tourists, the country is not only encouraging the construction of hotels but is spending money to improve accessibility to and in the island.
The Point Salines Airport project, which cost roughly $90 million, was completed in 1984. This international airport has a 9,000-foot runway (big effort for large bombers) and offers day and nighttime landing for large jet aircraft. Port facilities were expanded in 1985 to provide berths for cruise ships and schooners. Additional storage space for ocean stacking and cargo- handling equipment also has been provided.