President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia as reported by Reuters in SN of November 26 has warned that “youth unemployment is a major threat to peace and security in Liberia which, unless addressed, could see the return of conflict to the West African country following a decade of peace.” However, before President Sirleaf’s reminder, APNU’s Mr David Granger had previously warned, as reported in the KN of August 31, 2013, that Guyana’s “youth unemployment is a time bomb that needs to be diffused.” Shouldn’t a hint from both Baneba and Quasheba be a good lesson for Guyana’s leaders to take notice? Mr Granger, an old-timer who knows a thing or two about strategy should be commended and taken more seriously. The Brigadier has publicly pointed out to his opponents where their defences are weak making them politically vulnerable. Youth unemployment cuts across politics, race, religion and gender and addressing it more aggressively is to everyone’s benefit. Youths are more than half the entire population with unemployment about 21 per cent.
Considering Mr Granger champions free land for former soldiers, and providing they are still productive, any such land grants should be made in Essequibo, possibly near Jonestown as a settlement. Our cotton-picking Kimbia graduates from National Service, imbued with productive zeal in agriculture are adequately equipped we are told. The Jonestown tourist potential can be lucrative, especially with plans to reopen the Matthews Ridge manganese mines. Veterans’ patriotic loyalty to Guyana in such a strategic location after land grants in Essequibo would be a tremendous assured asset in territorial defence. Since Guyana’s military has traditionally always voted for the PNC no APNU fears can be harboured of losing political support.
Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy’s noble efforts to attract Trinidadian agriculture investments in Canje similar to that done for Barbadians in the Rupununi are most commendable. APNU should have no problems with such a venture which creates long-term jobs that earn foreign exchange.
Any PPP/C government’s proactive efforts at veterans’ resettlement in Essequibo will safeguard Guyana’s borders, take care of veterans by conditional land grants in Essequibo and seriously dent youth unemployment. It’s a win-win for all in Guyana. All the motives are honourable with APNU’s support assured in parliament if they mean what they say.
On a visit to Brussels to highlight the challenges facing fragile states, President Sirleaf had said more needed to be done to help young Liberians affected by 14 years of on-off civil war that ended in 2003. According to the United Nations, young people account for about 65 per cent of Liberia’s population of 4.1 million, and youth unemployment is estimated as high as 85 per cent. “Peace and security in Liberia is still an issue because of the young unemployed, and until we can address that, there’s always hanging over us the chance that there may be a resumption of conflict,” she said during an interview with Reuters.
The report pointed out that “the high proportion of young people in Liberia is mirrored across many parts of Africa, and is often cited as a source of optimism for the continent’s future economic growth and development. But Sirleaf’s warning underscores the risk that Africa’s long-heralded ‘demographic dividend’ could become a liability unless governments can create more jobs for their growing populations.”
In the early 1970s the PNC considered resettling Asian Hmong refugees in Essequibo as a defence against Venezuelan incursion. The Hmong refugees were CIA funded and allied to the American military quest against Vietnam. They became pariahs after Vietnam won the war. Mr Forbes Burnham had a rethink about their loyalty to Guyana so close to the Venezuelan border. Mr Burnham nevertheless settled former GDF and policemen at Melanie Damishana on rice lands in front of the PPP stronghold at Enterprise. A settlement of veterans in Essequibo offers considerably more for our country in the long term for the issues it resolves.