If two Senior Government Ministers of the near two-year old ruling New National Party (NNP) Administration of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell have their way, there would be some fine tuning made to showpiece Imani programme.
Both Legal Affairs Minister, Elvin Nimrod and Education Minister, Anthony Boatswain in making their contribution to the 2015 budget debate, offered some suggestions of their own to make the Imani programme more effective.
The Mitchell government has created the Imani programme to try and arrest unemployment among the nation’s youth by providing opportunities for them to engage in skills training on the job.
Nimrod who is the island’s deputy Prime Minister felt that the business entities where most of the Imani workers are placed should make a financial input into the program.
He told a sitting of the Lower House of Parliament that some of the Imani workers are aware that the employers do not pay the salaries they receive and as a result they (the Imani workers) do not give due respect and regard to the
“I believe that if the employers have a stake in this, I do not know what proportion but if they have a stake in this whole thing I believe they would be more vigilant in terms of the supervision, and I think …that the government should consider having the employers of prospective employees to have (a) stake in this whole thing,” he told legislators.
During the presentation of the 2015 budget, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Mitchell announced that $30M will be pumped into the Imani programme for the 2015 fiscal year which is expected to see the amount of youth involved in the initiative move from 3000 to 4000 youngsters in the coming year.
Minister Boatswain who dubbed the Imani scheme as Government’s flagship programs spoke of how some of the potential applicants were absorbed in the St. Patrick’s area.
He told the Lower House that 200 young people in his own Consistency of St. Patrick west went through the process of being interviewed but were not accommodated in any of the two batches of Imani workers who got places while another 200 more have now applied to get into the program.
The long-standing MP suggested that more agricultural cooperatives should be formed on the island in order to get the young people involved in agriculture.
He felt that if each of the Imani worker involved in the programme were to plant a tree over the next five years that would undoubtedly be beneficial to the island.
According to Boatswain, they are lands that are not utilized by the owners and suggested that Government could have a program to get the owners to lease the lands so as to have the young people involved in the agricultural sector.
He said there is a ready market in the school feeding program for local produce and Imanis can look towards this market to make a living.
The St. Patrick’s West representative also suggested that there could be a cooperative on furniture making among the Imanis which he said has tremendous potential.
He said there is already an existing facility where over 100 workers can be trained in furniture making.
The line minister who is responsible for the Imani program, Sports and Youth Minister, Emmalin Pierre indicated that the initiative has served to bring a sense of hope to the young people in Grenada.
Minister Pierre who admitted that the program is not perfect said she is satisfied about what has been achieved so far.
She said many of the 3,500 young people who are enrolled in the program are in the direct skills component of the program which includes the farm school, and the T.A. Marryshow Community College.
Minister Pierre disclosed that Government is currently in dialogue with the state-controlled National Insurance Scheme (NIS) to get them to be engaged in the utilisation of idle lands around the island.
One of the criticisms of the Imani programme is that a number of young persons who received training and cannot find a place of employment are still getting a monthly stipend from the State while staying idle at home.