On Thursday 25th June, the New Democratic Party (NDP) held a successful youth forum. In that session, youths shared their experiences of hardship, neglect, victimization, discrimination and hopelessness under the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government. The NDP has a better way. We offer hope and we see the talent and energy of our youths as pivotal in an effort to move St. Vincent and the Grenadines forward.
The stories articulated by the youths are well known and most youths can relate to them. It was heart-rending to listen to their presentations. It is even more depressing for young people who have graduated colleges and universities and are finding it extremely difficult to be employed. Some people are at home for a number of years and cannot find a job. As a result, they become frustrated.
The following are excerpts of one of the presenters, of how she sees the situation: “In the recent past here in St.Vincent and the Grenadines, we have witnessed many acts of violence and desperation from our young people. Many of them have been labeled as mentally ill. Just recently in Richland Park, a young boy was killed in a most gruesome manner. I would say therefore that we in St. Vincent and the Grenadines have a problem with mental health.
On the heels of that incident, the Prime Minister of this country was asked a question about mental health. His response was to state dismissively that people must ‘own their madness’. In the present climate, I thought that response was a most insensitive and out of touch comment that one could get from a Prime Minister of a country.
As a young woman I am angry. I want to own my anger and madness. I am saying, ‘Yes, I am mad’. I am mad because as a young girl; I was told if I studied hard and did well academically, I will be rewarded. I did that up to community college and graduated with subjects in Law and Communications and can’t even get a job in a supermarket.
I am mad because I see persons who I know are employed not because of their qualifications but because of their political connections, and I who have worked so hard am told continuously, no vacancies exist. I am mad because I see so many young men and women on the block with nothing to do. I am mad because so many young people I know are being gunned down in the streets.
I am mad because unemployment among young people here in St.Vincent and the Grenadines is over 46%. I am mad because unemployment among women here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is over 30%. I am mad because according to the IMF, Vincentians are worse off today than they were in 2001.
I am mad because for years, we were on the cusp of an economic take off and today we can only boast 0.03% economic growth for 2019. I am mad because too many young girls are forced to prostitute themselves to advance in life. I am mad because it seems that it’s only at the end of every five (5) years the government remembers that I want plywood, galvanize lumber and cement.
I am mad because of the high levels of sexual violence against women and girls here in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and an apparent disregard by the ruling regime. I am mad because citizenship means nothing – ask the cruise ship workers, the students in Cuba and Jamaica. I am mad because of the poor and despicable healthcare system here in St.Vincent and the Grenadines and I am mad because fifteen years ago we were promised a national stadium; today we could only get a basic track, ‘yes I am mad’.”
Plans For Our Youths
The NDP has stated that its major priority is to create the environment to provide thousands of sustainable jobs for the youths of this country. We will implement a number of novel and innovative programmes and policies that will create an enabling environment for thousands of jobs to be created. For example, the implementation of the Citizenship by Investment Programme will be an instant game changer for economic growth and development and job creation.
The NDP has also identified Information Technology as an important area that will provide opportunities for our young people. We will place tremendous emphasis on Information Technology to tackle the unemployment situation in this country which exists among our youths.
We will continue to provide the opportunities for higher education for more young Vincentians to obtain degrees at home and abroad, create a diversify scholarship portfolio by providing incentives and scholarships for youths who excel in sports, the arts and extracurricular activities. We will also ensure that meaningful employment is created for these youths after they have completed their studies.
Further, we will encourage a culture of youth entrepreneurship and provide the environment for them to grow. We will establish a National Development Bank, to eliminate the credit problem and make financing more accessible and more affordable for local businesspeople, especially small businesses. Our youths will benefit immensely from this bank. This bank will also provide training and technical assistance in Agriculture, tourism, fisheries, small business development and human resource development.
We will also focus on sports and skills training. Vincentians have seen the decline in these areas since the ULP took power in 2001.
It is the intention of the NDP to revive these crucial areas of development, so that our youths can benefit. The NDP will restructure the schools’ curriculum so that sports education can again be a priority. More hard courts will be constructed, enclosed, lit and properly maintained to facilitate various sporting disciplines and at least one playing field in each constituency will be lit to encourage more participation in sports. The NDP will make SVG work for all the youths.