Becoming more self-reliant

Brian FrancisGiven the challenges faced by almost every government worldwide to create new employment opportunities for its citizens, it is high time we as a people become more creative and aggressive in our own personal attempts to ease the unemployment burdens facing us.

The importance of becoming more ingenious as Grenadians cannot be over-emphasised because the challenges confronting our economy will most definitely continue in 2014 and way beyond as the structural adjustment programme takes full effect.

In a booming global economy, income will be generated, exports may very well rise, and remittances are likely to increase. Under those conditions, small economies like Grenada’s are liable to benefit from increased economic growth and development, which in turn could create more employment opportunities for individuals. Hence, those who actively seek formal employment have a much better chance of succeeding. Also, the unemployed who depends on support from families residing oversees is able to survive with limited or no additional assistance, whether from the government or other sources.

The scenario described in the preceding paragraph is completely reversed in times of a global economic meltdown as we have been witnessing for the past few years. It is under those conditions that the fittest alone will survive. But, being among the “fittest” cannot be a matter of chance or luck. Rather, it has to be the outcome of imagination, sacrifice, dedication and hard work.

As difficult as this may sound, a logical strategy to adopt is that of becoming an “industry migrant”. Put simply, each one of us, depending on personal circumstance, has to begin to look at exploiting opportunities that may exist in other areas of engagements for which we have had no formal training or previous work experience. That requires us to address not only our present mindset but also our cultural traditions.

You see, a major problem with fighting unemployment in our small economy lies with the manner in which we were socialised. It seems clear to me that the goal of obtaining a sound education is simply to earn a decent-paying job. How often have we heard from our parents, friends, and other well-wishers that we need to “go to school and learn well in order to obtain a good job?” Why is it that we are not told to go to school and learn well so that we can create our own employment opportunities?

Indeed, nothing is wrong with finding decent employment – whether in the public or private sector – but undoubtedly, there is much wisdom in becoming self-employed as well and that should be encouraged by all and sundry. Why?

In an economic downturn, the private sector often places limits on new hiring and in extreme cases even dismisses workers. The problem is compounded because we cannot sit back and wait on our government to give us “hand-outs” or to provide jobs for us when the very government is itself faced with mounting debt and a fiscal crisis that can only be exacerbated by auxiliary increases in public spending.

Hence, when economic and financial conditions toughen around us, our only real and sustainable way of overcoming the challenges is to invoke our create spirits through self-reliance. Are we prepared to take up that challenge?

It is obvious to me that as Grenadians we have little choice but to take up the challenge of seeking out solutions for ourselves in the New Year and those immediately following. Our Government does not have the capacity to provide for us in the same way as it has done in the past and the sooner we recognise and accept that desolate reality, the better our chances of surviving the impending structural adjustment programme!

(Dr. Brian Francis, the former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Bridgetown, Barbados of the University of the West Indies)

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