Grenada's new moderate leaders are depending on US to revive their island
Washington — Washington's euphoria over the return of democracy to Grenada is dissipating a bit as it measures the tough economic and social problems facing the nutmeg-and-spice island.
The overwhelming 14-to-1 parliamentary margin racked up by the centrist political coalition of Herbert A. Blaize in balloting earlier this month is heady stuff for an administration eager to vindicate United States intervention in Grenada last year. The US intervention ousted hard-line leftists from power who only weeks before had overthrown leftist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, and ended strong Cuban influence on the island.
In a Dec. 3 election, Grenadians repudiated not only the erratic former Prime Minister Eric Gairy and his followers, but also the remnants Bishop's movement.
But the eastern Caribbean island's economic difficulties - its spice industry burdened by huge surpluses, too little tourism, and 30 percent unemployment - are prompting deepening concern among officials here.
''Up to this point, (US intervention) is vindicated,'' says one US diplomatic source, referring to the resounding Grenadian vote for moderate democrats. But he adds: ''We're not out of the woods. The island's economic problems still must be addressed and taken care of.''
Despite $57.2 million from the US for public works spending, including $19 million to complete an airport Cuba had started, there is little evidence of economic improvement on the depressed island.
''This clearly is worrying us,'' admits another US diplomatic source. ''Unless we can solve these problems, they and the whole US role in Grenada may come home to roost on our doorstep.''
Unless Grenada takes off economically, many analysts suggest, Grenada's positive regard for the US could wane.
The US intervention launched the US into a large role in Grenada and the Reagan administration acknowledges that the action will affect the Caribbean region for years to come.
Mr. Blaize, a supporter of the US intervention, is optimistic that his new government, working with the US, will make headway in ''solving Grenada's economic difficulties and restoring our image as a democratic nation.''
But Blaize, whose government took power a day after the election, admits planning for economic improvement is limited. In one post-election statement, he said, ''What we need to do right away is stir more interest'' in Grenada.
Many Americans are keen to invest in Grenada - an interest fanned by President Reagan's Caribbean Basin Initiative and US post-intervention efforts on the island.
But as yet it is only interest. It has not so far translated into new factories or new jobs for Grenada's 110,000 people.
Many observers here doubt the interest will ever amount to much. Some of them say that Grenada's economy, long based on spice and tourism, is worse off today than it was before the US intervention.
Underlying much of the economic trauma facing the island is its lack of infrastructure. Highways are of limited quality; in rainy weather, many are impassable. Electricity lines are of poor quality and water mains are rudimentary. Sewage disposal is archaic. The US has spent $25 million to improve roads and utilities, but much more, perhaps $200 million, is needed.
major problem for the spice industry, and particularly for nutmeg, is a glut of spices on the world market. Relying so heavily on spices for income puts Grenada at the mercy of that market.
The island needs more hotel rooms if the tourist industry is to develop. There are a mere 500 rooms now, many of which are occupied by US civilian and military employees. While the new airport, begun by the Cubans four years ago, has now been finished and is ready even for jumbo jets, ''there is no place to put people,'' says one US official.
Moreover, a full-fledged tourist industry needs adequate water systems, dependable electricity, more functioning toilets and other such items.
The US could help in supplying some of these facilities, but no such commitment for hotel facilities has been made.
This evident lack extends to know-how as much as to facilities. The US, for example, has yet to succeed in training a local security force sufficient to allow the 230 remaining US troops to go home. Security continues in US hands, creating what a US source called a ''troubling dependency'' on the US.
With a native Grenada constabulary as yet unestablished, the US has turned to the rest of the Eastern Caribbean to share in policing the island. This effort has met with some success. Jamaica has more than 200 police on the island helping with security.
Grenada also needed foreign help in staging its election. Neighboring islands worried that the Grenadians might let the opportunity for a democratic vote slip through their fingers, so St. Vincent sent a calypso disk jockey to Grenada to encourage interest in the vote by broadcasting and speaking publicly to island residents.
The need for outside help has played a role in sobering the intial euphoric mood in Washington after the election.
Blaize is also a realist. Immediately after winning, he said the vote ''rejected postures of the extreme left (and) postures of the extreme right.'' But then he added: ''Now comes the hard part.''