In Guyana, the unemployment catastrophe will have to stretch well beyond party promises and manifesto maxims. It will have to surpass the GYD 100 million allocated for youth, in its recently passed budget.
It was the hollow argument of PPP youth MP, Charles Ramson that confirmed that the problem does not have its roots in money. He was the MP who boasted that his party had budgeted 535 Million dollars for youth and had spent 961 million on them. Yet the country’s unemployment rate soared past 40% taking most of it victims from within the youth bracket, ages fifteen to twenty four, and extending its casualties to many through age forty, proving that it was more than the allocation of funds that is the problem and questioning where the millions that were ‘set aside’ for youth improvement were spent. But that will be discussed when we continue our discussion on misappropriation.
There are several sociopolitical forces affected by this unemployment calamity; the broader being the 40% who are available for work but can’t find work and the smaller but ultimately more crucial 66% of this unemployed demographic that is comprised of youth who are the voters for the next election.
So, this Administration’s approach to its pledge to create jobs for the unemployed and honor it’s Manifesto’s Foundation Five – Our Youth, Our Future – has to be a smart and swift mix of politics and economics, complete with a steady stream of information on incentives for employers and new employment opportunities, to secure youth confidence and ultimately their vote come next election cycle.
The typical economic argument to remedy unemployment is to increase educational opportunities. The supposition is that a more qualified person will earn a higher wage and, thus, will reduce the incidence of wage inequality. Though this is not, strictly, a winning principle, there are parts to it that could be used by Administration Coalition.
For Guyana, education is unquestionably a factor impeding employability. Under the last administration, Guyana’s literacy rate fell from an enviable 98.4% to 84.99%, still a very questionable figure, though the last administration provided this statistic to its country facts page.
Shamefully, this drop represents the absence of fundamental education, like subject, verb agreement, and simple sentence structure. It represents the inability of many to do simple mathematical calculations mentally and to engage situation with critical thinking – an exercise that was done at the ‘common entrance’- pre high school – level before the last regime took over the academic curricula. Emphasis was placed on the clichéd quantity not quality, so that a child would pass an incredible number of subjects at school exams. Many of these ‘passes’ are comprised of subjects broken into an inordinate amount of segments so that agriculture, for example, when broken into its four parts, could net a student four passes for this one subject. Indeed, these academic examinations are administered by a reputable council but there is much to question when, students perform well in these exams and fail at basic proficiency.
Given the correlation between education and employment, the challenge for the Granger Administration will be to create an employment machine that is prepared to absorb those who are qualified.
But herein lies the Catch twenty-two
Isn’t the economy overrun by sole proprietorships, small closed companies or businesses like the mining of our (Guyana’s) mineral wealth that gives the Brazilians the right to mine without the dictate of training and using local labour? Is there any effective incentive to steer high school or trade school graduates into our (Guyana’s) existing staple industries of rice and sugar production? There may be partnerships with employers but is there a system in place to ensure that the incentives offered to these employers in the form of tax breaks are being rewarded with expected fair hiring practices?
Every year, hundreds of students graduate from high schools, trade schools and university and are not absorbed into the economy because there is either no job availability or no job to match their skill. Many of them migrate, leading to brain drain and reverting the country to its state of lack of qualified people.
For this new Administration to be seen as keeping its promise and for it to hold the interest of youth who are crucial to the outcome of the next general election, it has to reduce, immediately and drastically, the lack of positive employment outcomes for people who educate themselves in anticipation of being able to live productive lives.
In the context of nation, education is an investment in the future. It is an effective way of reducing poverty, which affects the economy by increasing taxes to support those who cannot support themselves. Productivity is increased if skill levels are available. Exports can be increased if workers meet the skills required to produce for global demand.
The Manifesto professes a commitment to the upliftment of our youth. We like that.
It stresses its dedication to promoting economic growth by creating jobs and opportunities for self employment, via credit and financing and land reform.
We need that.
What we want now is for this new Administration to show us, in real numbers, traceable efforts, what new policies, what tangible efforts, have been made to keep our (Guyana’s) graduates home and to get our (Guyana’s) available people into the work force to earn, at least, a living wage.
The APNU/AFC Coalition Manifesto is a Sunset Agreement.
The life of the Sunset is thirty six to sixty months.
This means that the clauses of the Manifesto will begin their expiration at the onset of three years and will end in five.
The Twilights to this Sunset are already four months into the countdown.
And we’re watching and waiting.
By Verian Mentis-Barker