Youth empowerment

Travelling along the west coast on a mini bus from Gouyave to St. George’s I was amazed to see the number of persons employed in the debushing program; but what was more painful was the scores of young people involved in the program.

I was distracted and very disturbed. Is this the change the Grenadian population voted for in the last general election? Is it that Grenadians do not want to be gainfully employed and are satisfied with the “eat a food” mentality.

That has set me thinking. Where is the future of the Grenadian youth? What can the youth look forward to if we are to make a meaningful contribution towards the development of the country.

Personally, I see it as just another sad day in Paradise. A future totally dependent on government for one’s livelihood cannot in any way stimulate an ailing economy.

Those in authority must always remember that “Grenada belongs to all Grenadians”. Therefore we must be involved in decision-making and planning the way forward for our nation’s youth”.

I often wonder about the downhill trend in the economy and Government’s apparent inability to do something about it. How are we going to build a better nation and develop our economy when employment is only provided to the poor and vulnerable including the youth approximately three times a year for roughly two fortnights?

Is that the NNP recipe for building a sustainable economy? With the majority of Grenadian families subsisting on such “mega incomes” barely eking out their daily bread living just “hand to mouth” I can only see a very gloomy future for the youth here in Grenada.

The youth can barely meet the day-to-day expenses. Buying food supplies is a luxury for many. When they get the fortnight debushing work they first have to pay for the goods they credited from the village shop when they were unemployed before they can think about buying anything else.

I then thought about the word “empowerment”. I believe that this is what is needed at this time as we seek to explore all possible avenues for sustainable development and job creation. What can be better for the development of this our beautiful nation if not the empowerment of our youth? We must teach our youth how to be productive citizens and become assets to the State. There must be creative ways we can teach them to enable them to survive in this prolonged economic depression.

The NNP way of doing business is bad for the economy. Bribery and corruption have no place in the building of a stable and viable economy. Changes are urgently needed in the running of government ministries.

I am calling on you Mr. Prime Minister, begging you, please allow Permanent Secretaries to do their jobs. Let them update you on the implementation of plans and project within the various ministries but do not adictate to them how to do their job. You cannot be the chief, cook and bottle washer all at the same time.

My humble advice to you Sir is simple; please allow the professionals to do their job. They can do without the political interference or influence, just give them the space to function effectively.

How can a government that claims, “it cares about our nation’s young people” have them working under such conditions? Is that the best you can do Mr. Prime Minister for the Grenadian youth who voted overwhelmingly for your party? I am very unhappy about this situation and I am sure many other young persons share my view.

I live among and interact with many young persons and know the true reality in which we live on a daily basis. You may choose to hide from it but the truth is that young persons are not happy with the programs and conditions that your administration has developed for them. They deserve much more than what they are given. They trusted you and believed your campaign promises of investors and jobs and more jobs.

The new Imani program that is organised by the Ministry of Youth is not and cannot be the solution for curbing unemployment especially among our nation’s youth.

I strongly believe that all governments should invest substantial amounts of their resources in youth development and empowerment. Too often we have been told to depend on someone to give us a job; we do not teach our nation’s youth how to create employment opportunities for themselves. Our curriculum and education system are not geared towards teaching the youth basis fundamentalities of carving out a future for themselves, about entrepreneurship and sustainable human resource development.

I do not have much confidence in this Imani program. I cannot see how sending a group of individuals to train alongside someone and giving them a stipend every month can be considered sustainable. That, to me, is a heavy burden on the government coffers especially in this cashed-strapped economy.

When the program comes to an end most of the young persons would have nothing to show but a certificate that will most likely be placed somewhere on the shelf to collect dust. They will be back in the ranks of the unemployed with no prospects for employment in the foreseeable future.

That is progress under the NNP style. This is the progress that was faithfully promised to the youth by Dr. Mitchell and his team during the campaign leading up to the 2013 general elections. It is like traveling in circles, doing the same thing over and over again.

What is urgently needed is more industries and an infrastructure that is geared to job creation to satisfy the increasing number of youths completing their education at the various educational institutions. The new Imani youth program is a slap in the face for the number of us youth who rallied night after night to the NNP rallies throughout the length and breadth of this country. There is no doubt that the campaign appealed to us; we were totally captivated. As a result we gave you a mandate that rarely happens in a true democracy.

The millions of dollars that is being spent on the new Imani program can be better utilised in areas of industries and manufacturing. Grenada needs to build a productive nation, not a dependant one. We need to develop unique products that can capture the attention of prospective buyers. We need to market our products aggressively and once these products have been accepted we make sure that the standard is maintained. After that we invest more and expand thereby creating gainful employment opportunities for more young persons.

By your action you seem to view young people “as low life” and do not think they can contribute anything more worthwhile to society other than dig drains, trim overhanging branches and debush. Is that the concept that you have embedded in your collective NNP head about young people?

Those jobs can be undertaken by prisoners. Instead the administration is playing the people’s hero games; “I will give you a job and be loyal to me for life”. In this modern day, it is called blackmail. How long can this trend continue? And how long will it last? You have created a society that is almost absolutely or totally dependant on government for everything.

You teach our people to be slaves and not productive workers. However the Bible teaches, that “by the sweat of thy brow thou shall eat bread”. It did not say depend and then you shall eat. We are all given talents, however, how we use those talents will determine how successful we become in life. The slavery mentality still exists up to this day in Grenada, thanks to the NNP. It would appear that colonialism has not left us, instead the government is playing the role of the modern day colonialist. They have a mentality from the days of slavery where they themselves are the plantation owners.

Why does government continue to use scarce resources to fund programs that prisoners can do. The money spent on such programs can be used to establish more skills training centers like NEWLO (New Life Organisation) and equip young persons with skills to empower themselves. This will render them emotionally, mentally and physically capable to become entrepreneurs or attain whatever jobs that may be available in the market.

Could you Mr. Prime Minister tell me, what contribution the debushing program makes to building our cashed strapped economy?

I submit that your administration continues this program despite the advice of the World Bank and IMF, to get self praise and loyalty from supporters. I fail to see how that is the way forward for us as a nation. Is this a cheap trick to fool the majority of the population to vote for your party again in the next general election to prolong your stay in power?

Young people I implore you to open your eyes and demand something better. You are not the scums of the earth; instead you are tomorrow’s generation of leaders. Do not allow yourselves to be manipulated again in such a cheap way. Be affirmative in your thinking and action. Demand better from the administration, it is not doing you a favour, this is your Constitutional right. This type of excessive spending on social programs is not sustainable rather it is bleeding the economy.

If only we were taught to embrace and live by the values of the great Chinese proverb Grenada would be a different place. If we were socialised with a maxim, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

Mr. Prime Minister, emphasis should be placed in developing more skills training and resource centers. Our youth need to be taught how to empower themselves. If this is done the country will produce more qualified and competent young people whose talents can be harnessed to increase productivity in the economy.

Year after year the same thing happens in the country. This obviously will not allow any significant growth to take place in the economy. It is therefore prudent and timely for us as an independent nation to take immediate steps to rescue our country.

In short, your administration’s programs Mr. Prime Minister are not helping the poor to move out of poverty. If you do not shift your focus the poor will remain in poverty. Is it that your administration is to simply keep them always dependant so that they can continue to go to their “papa” for handouts?

I detest seeing the youth so dependant waiting on government for their every need. Your administration needs to become more creative and find better ways to deal with the pressing issues of youth empowerment.

If the resources are more effectively used training can be provided to improve the knowledge and skills of our youth. As the saying goes, “lots of positive vibes will flow”. However, if nothing is put in place to curb the unemployment problem the youth will become even more hopeless and disenchanted.

If there is one thing we must always remember is that the government is not the solution to our problems, It Is the problem.

Brian J.M. Joseph

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