The nation’s youth is treated with contempt by the government

Dear Editor,

Reference is made to the Guyana Chronicle August 24 article, ‘Impress Youth Expo angers dinosaurs who want to re-write history.‘ The failure of the government to disprove statements made by the Guyana Trades Union Congress in its August 15 press release regarding President Jagdeo’s distortion and selective recall of history, coupled with his administration‘s failure to have a youth development policy, have seen them cowering behind more distortions. The nation’s future, the youth, continue to be treated with contempt by this government and is urged to take note and put an end to it.

While the article reminds us that “history is important, as it is the only way we can gauge our progress,” it failed to prove “progress.“ Today’s youth are primarily raised in the environment of a PPP government.  The President; Ministers Frank Anthony, Jennifer Webster, Robert Persaud, Jennifer Westford, Shaik Baksh, Manzoor Nadir, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett,to  name a few of the over 20 ministers, were the youth of the pre-October 1992 era. Compared to their opportunities to unleash their potential and participate in nation-building as against today’s youth given the current reality, the picture remains dismal and hopeless. For instance, the young generation of President Jagdeo, et al, had opportunities for free education from nursery to university, which the current young people do not have. President Jagdeo, a young PPP card-bearing member, was employed as a planner in the State Planning Secretariat under a PNC led administration, participating in nation-building that would have benefited him, an opportunity many are today denied if they are not affiliated to, or in bed with, the PPP.

Take note today there is no State Planning Secretariat because the PPP dismantled it, opting to apply ad hoc approaches to national planning and implementation which stifle potential; deny structured and equitable development; and offer cover to mismanage the nation’s resources. Under their stewardship the narco-economy co-mingles with the formal economy accounting for as much as 60% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) based on a study by Professor Clive Thomas, et al. In any moment of honesty the PPP and ministers will admit this level of criminality is new and a creature of theirs.

In looking at the fundamental right to work, many are unemployed, and the few who are employed many of their classmates, families, villagers or townsmen are unemployed. Many are at the street corner having nothing to do or are engaged in illicit activities because of the government’s failure to create the enabling environment for legitimate work. According to the National Development Strategy between 1992-1997 employment declined to 46 per cent in the public service; Linmine 43 per cent; Bermine 30 per cent; and GuySuCo 31 per cent. This administration has put more people on the breadline, and given the absence of any major investment to absorb the laid-off, and with more young people joining the workforce, the figures would be higher. They failed to admit over 80 per cent of university graduates are forced to flee and unleash their potential in developing other countries in as much as such skills are needed here. Additionally, nurses, teachers, artisans, cane-cutters, etc, are leaving in droves because of poor remuneration/job satisfaction, inability to provide basic amenities for self and family, denial of rights, escalating crime and poor social services.

The PPP has demonstrated it has no regard for politics that put people and their development at the centre. Neither does it care that a foremost responsibility of every government is to ensure the citizens lead productive lives. And these are proven in their actions. One, is the failure to see the young are not complaining about working, they are instead crying out for employment opportunities. Two, there is the failure to implement the National Development Strategy which would have ensured development for all. Three, there are the millions from the Treasury that could have gone toward productive endeavours had the President avoided his overseas trips at taxpayers’ expense. Four, there is the number of persons who could have been employed at the minimum wage if the president decided to forego the US$5000 out-of-pocket allowance to which he is entitled every time he travels abroad. Five, there are the millions in waste, fraud and abuse that could have gone towards creating new jobs and spreading the wealth around. Six, the administration could have ensured there would be a shared economic burden/responsibility if the incomes of the President, ministers, Inland Revenue Commissioner, etc were taxed. Seven, reducing the draconian 16 per cent VAT and 33.3 per cent PAYE would have given workers more disposable income to improve their standard of living. Eight, respecting the rights of citizens and upholding the rule of law would have fostered a society of order, peaceful co-existence and prosperity.

Even as the government talks of food shortages and lines of yesteryear they fail to admit today many cannot afford skyrocketing food prices, mortgages, rent, transportation, healthcare, school supplies, electricity and water rates. They conveniently ignore these daily challenges of existence under their stewardship, which they must be held accountable for. If it weren’t for barrels and remittances, which have become the staple of survival and a significant contributor to the GDP, the deprivation would have been worse.

Further, the claimed increase in the ‘school uniform assistance project‘ and the ‘school feeding programme‘ are not indicators of development. In fact these are indicators of the growing inability of many families to provide basic items for their children. Only an irresponsible and uncaring government would take pride in policies that increase dependency, deny fundamental rights and strip persons of their dignity.

Yet in spite of these glaring failures the Jagdeo-Ramotar team expects the young to believe their tale that nowhere in this world is nation-building as easy as Lewis would have us believe, where jobs are readily available for all, where people do not have to work hard to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Clearly, this administration has failed the people and proven it is incapable of delivering good governance. Being given the privilege to govern, in the interest of all, they have opted to abuse same and created a society where there exist different rules for them and the people, as they parade their wealth, and engineer the widening of the gap between the haves and have-nots. Their actions continue to deny legitimate and holistic development, and since the future belongs to the young they have a right and responsibility to play a role in moulding it. Consequently, they have to be the change they want to see. Young people should be discerning and rejecting of those who deliberately coax ignorance, diversion and division in the hope of covering their failures, stifling the potential of youth, facilitating poverty and dependency, and eroding dignity by denying youths what’s rightfully theirs.

Yours faithfully,
Lincoln Lewis

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