The Board of Directors, Management and staff of the Agency for Rural Transformation Ltd.(ART) joins the nation in saluting the life and contribution of the late George Ignatius Brizan, Grenada’s sixth Prime Minister – educator, historian, author, economist, nation builder.
George Brizan served Grenada with distinction in the field of education. Educator par excellence, he was revered by his many students upon whom he had a profound influence. He impressed and inspired them with his passion and enthusiasm and his dedication to excellence. He also reminded them that, even though Grenada was a small country, what mattered in the world was one’s ability so one should strive always for excellence. He extolled “service to country and to humanity” and he also exhorted his protégés to remain grounded and to always remember that “no matter how high you climb, NEVER forget from whence you came”.
Dedication to the Development of Agriculture
At various times of his political career, George Brizan served as Minister of Finance, Minister of Agriculture and for a brief period as Prime Minister. He was a very popular Minister of Agriculture and up to this day, he is still revered by both the farmers of the nation and the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture who served under his tenure as Minister. He believed in agriculture and in the potential of Grenada’s “black gold”, nutmegs, whose wealth and possibilities still remain virtually untapped.
Following his departure from active political life, his please to seriously address the development of the nutmeg sector have largely fallen on deaf ears and it is ironic that it was Montserratian Joel Webbe of W & W Spices who recognized Mr. Brizan for his epic work, Nutmegs, Grenada’s Black Gold – a labour of love that he freely gave to his Grenadian people. Mr. Brizan held the view that the key to Grenada’s economic development lay in the development of the nutmeg sector. Now, as the nation confronts a serious economic crisis, perhaps the greatest tribute that Grenada can pay to Mr. Brizan would be to realize the vision of its black gold.
Mr. Brizan was also a proponent of “Eat What You Grow and Grow What You Eat!”. He was aware of the superior nutritional value of our local fruits and members of the Extension staff in the Ministry of Agriculture fondly recall how, as Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Brizan never missed any opportunity to expound on the virtues of the humble West Indian cherry. As an economist, he could situate “eating local” within the context of health and national development and as someone who battled diabetes, “eating local” held special significance for him.
Voluntary Structural Adjustment Programme
As Minister of Finance, Mr. Brizan was the architect of Grenada’s voluntary structural adjustment programme implemented between 1991 and 1994. When the National Democratic Congress came into office in 1990, Grenada was not credit worthy. This situation was aggravated by the collapse of world prices for nutmegs in 1991. The nutmeg sector had enjoyed a boom as a result of trading arrangements with Indonesia. However, with the deregulation of the Indonesian economy by the IMF, world prices for nutmegs plummeted. The rural economy collapsed and nation faced an economic crisis.
While not popular, the structural adjustment programme was necessary. Undertaking a voluntary structural adjustment programme, represented Grenada confronting its problems rather than surrendering ownership of these problems to the IMF and IMF conditionalities. It was a declaration of independence, of sovereignty and of Mr. Brizan’s confidence that, even as a small country, we had the capacity to do it ourselves. It was also his knowledge that Grenada could not survive IMF conditionalities, which were causing riots in other parts of the world. It was a very difficult period for the nation. Sacrifices and hard work were required.
During that period, it was noticeable that the Ministry of Finance was professionalized. Many of the graduates who had come back from Cuban universities had been, to date, marginalized. A number of them who had studied economic planning were former students of Mr. Brizan. They were welcomed into the Ministry of Finance where they became part of a cadre of competent policy analysts who had the responsibility for guiding Grenada through that turbulent period. Grenada owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Brizan and his team who steered Grenada through that difficult period to restore Grenada’s creditworthiness.
EU – ACP Relations
During his tenure, as Minister of Finance, Grenada benefited significantly from European Union development funds and indeed Grenada became a model partner. One recalls that after his departure from active politics, he lent support to the New National Party administration under Dr. Keith Mitchell to restore Grenada’s good standing with the European Union. He explained to the nation that his consideration based was the national interests and not narrow partisan interests. He also lent similar support to the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
As Grenada’s Minister of Finance, Mr. Brizan had the opportunity to chair the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states and make his mark on the world stage.
Mr. Brizan’s retirement from active political life was hastened by his struggle with diabetes. But, by his application of rigorous discipline, he won the battle and was able to return to his intellectual pursuits of research and writing. He was a prolific author and one of his legacies will be his collection of published works among which is the well known “Island of Conflict”, a history of Grenada. In 2009, he did his last book launch, “She Stood Alone”’( co-authored with his daughter) which pays tribute to the contribution of Grenadian women to nation building.
Speaking at the launch, Mr. Brizan noted the leadership exhibited by Grenadian women in all walks of life, their creativity, hard work and pragmatism in dealing with challenges of survival. He suggested that there were many lessons to be learned from the stories of these humble women which would still be applicable to our present situation. Besides paying homage to the women of the nation, he appeared to be reminding us to search within ourselves to find the answers to the problems that confronted us. We had been there and done it. To some, it also seemed that it was an implicit call to the women of the country to claim a more prominent place in the political leadership of our country.
George Brizan, a distinguished son of the soil served his nation selflessly. His earthly work is done but his legacy is assured.
The Agency for Rural Transformation Ltd.(ART) extends sincere condolences to his family, friends, professional and political colleagues. May he rest in peace!