Young people must ‘seize the day’

Dear Editor,

I grew up on the adage ‘Youths are the future’; I say youths are the now. It’s a great time to be young, and especially in Guyana as opportunities abound. And as my mother says, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized in the lifetime of the opportunity.”

President David Granger rightly said also, that, “Youth development must equip young people with the right education, the right attitudes and the right values if they are to go out into the world and become productive and useful citizens. Youth development must overcome the challenge of unemployment. Youth development, also, must give birth to a new generation of Guyanese entrepreneurs; of leaders; of pioneers, young people who are prepared to explore new avenues and opportunities in our economy.”

There is no excuse for someone who escaped the formal education system as there are enough opportunities to bring oneself on par with those who have been exposed to formal schooling. Locally, I have identified eleven significant investments government is making in our youth; literally millions of dollars are being invested or are ready to be channelled toward our youth.

The suite of programmes includes the Small Business Bureau (SBB); Sustainable Livelihood & Entrepre-neurial Development(SLED); Local Areas Economic Profile (LAEP); Local Economic Development Strategic Plans (LSPs); Community Infrastructure Improvement Pro-gramme (CIIP); Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (CSSP); Micro and Small Enterprise Deve-lopment (MSED) Project; Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training (YEST) programme; Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS); Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) platform; Youth Innovation Fund (YIF).

Allow me to elaborate on just a few. The Small Business Bureau was established to Promote policies and programmes which foster small business development. The Minister of Business recently lamented that the SBB’s targets are not being met.

One publication noted, “Though it has been implementing the programme for three years the bureau is still to disburse more than 80% of a targeted 800 loans under the programme, it has only disbursed 233 of a targeted 300 grants and has created and sustained only 735 jobs under both programmes. It was expected to have created and sustained 2,200 jobs.” Why aren’t our youths taking full advantage of this opportunity?

I was privileged have launched in my constituency (14) the Ministry of Public Security’s Citizen Security Strengthening Programme (Component 1: Community Crime and Violence). The specific objective of this component is to improve behaviours for non-violent conflict resolution in target communities which will contribute to the overall aim of the programme: contributing to a reduction in crime and violence in Guyana, especially in the targeted communities and among youths through skills training.

300 youths will benefit from entrepreneurial training initially, training approximately 4,000 at-risk youths over the next four years. Students will be supported with small grants to facilitate small business start-ups. Each youth will be given approximately 70$US per month to cover transportation to and from school, meals and other expenses. Teenage mothers and fathers will be provided with additional resources to cover day care support. This is a US$5 million investment overall.

In 2017 government aims to focus, “on the empowerment of individuals and the facilitation of small and micro-enterprise, expanding existing programmes aimed at fostering youth entrepreneurship. The Micro and Small Enterprise Development (MSED) Project will continue with its financing, training and development activities, targeting prospective and established entrepreneurs and small businesses. To this end, a total of 660 clients are targeted for training and business support.

Additionally, a total of 600 micro-enterprises will be visited to review their business plans and the results of training facilitated by the Project”.  It is my sincere wish that our young people would grab hold of these opportunities.

In his 2017 Budget presentation Minister of Finance Winston Jordan introduced the Youth Innovation Fund (YIF). “This Fund will provide a financing platform to launch exceptionally innovative ideas, harnessing the energetic and creative minds of our young people. The criteria for accessing this programme are still being finalised, but will include level of originality, viability, applicability beyond demonstration, and maintaining zero net impact on the environment. This Fund, which will be overseen by a multi-stakeholder steering committee, will be endowed, initially, with a sum of $50 million with the intention of supporting successful start-up applicants.”

Editor, as 2017 beckons it is my fervent wish that our young people take to action what is embodied in the phrase, ‘carpe diem’, seize the day; remembering in their pursuit of all things what Dr Steven Covey suggests, “The single most powerful investment we can make in life is investment in ourselves.” Kudos to the government for providing the opportunities.

Yours faithfully,

Sherod Avery Duncan

Deputy Mayor

Municipality of Georgetown

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