New Internationalist

Grenada

Issue 223

new internationalist
issue 223 - September 1991

Country profile: Grenada

photo by PHILIP WOLMUTH It takes a long while to get over trauma. One clear day in October 1983 US paratroopers fell from the skies onto the 'Spice Island'. For most islanders, emerging from a horrendous 96-hour curfew and a nightmare of massacre, the paratroopers seemed like descending angels.

The soldiers came because the revolutionary regime of the New Jewel Movement (NJM), led by the charismatic and popular Maurice Bishop, had imploded under the pressures of bitter ideological argument. Bishop and several others had fallen before the spitting machine guns of his former comrades-in-arms, and Presi-dent Reagan seized this opportunity to rid the region of a pro-Cuban regime.

The story since then is one of exorcising the memories of the revolutionary experiment. Fourteen NJM members were sentenced to death and the Appeal Verdict is expected this year. While many islanders cheered the original verdicts, wiser counsels now prevail. Better long sentences than mass executions and gestures of revenge which would inflame emotions far beyond Grenada's shores. In any event most Grenadians are now more concerned with economic survival.

The US poured in over $40 million after the 'intervention'. Nearly half of that went to completing the international airport. A good deal was wasted in conspicuous consumption. Government finances pitched into the red as Grenada dropped down Washington's agenda and fell victim to poorly thought-out US-inspired tax reform. Unemployment is almost as high as under the pre-revolutionary regime of the corrupt mystic, Sir Eric Gairy. Traditional agriculture is deeper in the doldrums than ever before. Tourism was hailed as the answer but the income and job creation records have not been encouraging.

Despite a history of peasant-based independence and resourcefulness, many Grenadians seemed to have lost confidence. Confusion and disorientation have also characterised the political scene.

Herbert Blaize, an old-style pro-middle class politician, won Washington's approval and his coalition New National Party went on to win in the 1984 elections - with financial assistance from the US Republicans.

But gradually the coalition fell apart as economic problems mounted and as Blaize's authoritarianism became intolerable. His death in 1989 paved the way for a new start. Although the March 1990 elections were inconclusive with too many contenders, traditional pork-barrel politics won the day and Nicholas Braithwaite's National Democratic Congress was sworn in.

Today there is little trace of Grenada's revolution, and dependency haunts the island as never before. Most unusually for the island, a political calm has descended. Perhaps the long trauma is finally over.

Tony Thorndike

 

AT A GLANCE

LEADER: Prime Minister Nicholas Braithwaite

ECONOMY: GNP per capita US$1,720 (US $19,840)
Currency: Eastern Caribbean dollar
Exports: Bananas and cocoa exported to Europe under Lomé Convention concessionary terms. Nutmeg and mace have a world market but prices are low after collapse of nutmeg cartel between the two major producers, Indonesia and Grenada. Agriculture is depressed, and country looks to remittances from expatriates, tourism and borrowing to help balance the books.

PEOPLE: 110,000

HEALTH: Infant mortality 23 per 1,000 live births (US 10 per 1,000)

CULTURE: Most people are descendants of African slaves. Grenada's carnival in August and the Regatta in neighbouring Carriacou are high points of lively cultural life.
Religion: Mainly Roman Catholic, legacy of former French rule. Also flourishing charismatic and Seventh Day Adventist churches; some Anglican communities.
Language: English and patois.

Sources: The State of the World's Children 1991 and information supplied by author.

Last profiled in October 1982

 

STAR RATINGS

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INCOME DISTRIBUTION [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Wide land ownership blunts impact of income inequality.

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LITERACY [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Good: 88% of children attend primary school, 35% secondary.

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SELF-RELIANCE [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Peasant production provides most basic food.

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FREEDOM [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Respect for human and civil rights improving under new government.

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POSITION OF WOMEN [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Relatively powerful.

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LIFE EXPECTANCY [image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown]
Fair at 66 years (US 77 years).

1982: n/a

 

POLITICS

Politics now

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1982

Centre right.

 

NI star rating

EXCELLENT
GOOD
FAIR
POOR
APPALLING
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