Political Leader of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Senator Nazim Burke is calling for an audit to be done on the new Imani programme which is at the centrepiece of job-creation among youth by the near two-year old government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
Sen. Burke who was addressing the Upper House during the debate of the 2015 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure said this is a good time for the ruling New National Party (NNP) administration to consider having an audit of the Imani programme.
According to the Congress Leader, himself a former Minister of Finance, monies are being spent and there is need for the country to satisfy itself that it is receiving value for money.
Sen. Burke believes that the Imani programme is an unemployment allowance programme, but pointed out that the NDC supports any and all programmes which improve the lives of the young people, providing them with jobs, vocational and training opportunities.
He said he did not get the sense that the programme truly invests in the education and training of the young people in order to increase their knowledge base, their vocational training, professional training and their capabilities to equip them with life-long knowledge and skills which they will be able to utilise in their daily living by increasing their social and economic independence.
He added that he does not know if the monies being paid to the Imani workers are being done with specified benchmarks or performance criteria, or targets.
In this regards, the Congress leader told the Senate one is left to conclude that the Imani Programme is the main pillar of the new economy that was promised by Mitchell’s NNP as part of its campaign promises to win the 2013 general elections.
There are currently three thousand young people enrolled in the programme, and it has been reported by Prime Minister Mitchell that during the 2015 fiscal year the number will increase to four thousand.
Government has budgeted $30M for the program this year.
Labour representative in the Senate, Raymond Roberts who joined in the debate over the Imani programme believes that a growth of four thousand Imani workers is an explosion, and that to some extent it is providing “cheap labour” for some business places.
Sen. Roberts charged that government has not done any serious analysis of the program which he believes is focused on accumulating numbers in return for votes rather than considering the future of those young people who are part of the programme.
“The people of Grenada should have received from the government a comprehensive analysis of the thirty plus million dollars invested in this programme. We should have had a documented report on the accomplishment, he told the Senate session.
Sen. Roberts believes that the Imani Programme will be enhanced if government first identify the areas of economic activity to which the young people are prepared to contribute such as livestock, fishing, and small farming production.
He suggested that the young people stand to benefit if the $30M allocated for the Imani Programme is spent on encouraging young people to utilize their talents in an entrepreneurial way.
He felt that the Youth initiative is too politically oriented and called for civil society to get involved in helping to manage the programme.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs, Senator Sheldon Scott has disclosed that as of this year the business entities that employ the services of the Imani workers will now have to pay for their services.
Sen. Scott announced that from this month (January), the Private Sector will have to pay half of the stipend given to Imani workers who are on attachments with them.
He believes that the money government will now save as a result of the decision will help to create more spaces in the programme for other unemployed youngsters in the country.
Speculation is rife in some quarters of the country that a number of private sector enterprises have increasingly turned to the Imani programme to recruit workers and to cut on their monthly wage bills by sending home older and more experienced workers.