Guybernet hosts panel discussion to mark International Youth Day
By Ruel Johnson
Guyana Chronicle
August 15, 2003

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GUYBERNET, a local sustainable development and youth-focused NGO (non-governmental organisation), held a panel discussion on the theme, “Youth Employment”, to commemorate the United Nations’ International Youth Day on Tuesday, August 12, 2003.

Declaring the proceedings open in the Conference Room of the National Library was Quacy Grant, one of two young people who will represent Guyana at the Millennium Youth Congress scheduled to be held in Morocco later this month.

Grant introduced Mr. Jan Sorenson, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Mr. Sorenson told the audience of young people that unemployment is a global problem but specifically in developing countries where 85 per cent of the world’s young people live. Mr. Sorenson said that, according to some estimates, millions of young people across the world are out of work; and within the next decade or so, more than one billion more will enter the “working age” population. He said that recently, major moves have been undertaken at an international level to ensure that the four E’s of combating joblessness are adhered to. They are: employability, equal opportunity, entrepreneurship and employment creation.

In her presentation, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Gail Teixeira congratulated Guybernet on hosting the panel discussion. She said that her Ministry has been quietly working, mostly in areas outside of Georgetown, to assess the needs of young people when it comes to employment and other issues affecting them.
Minister Teixeira said that her Ministry is currently in the process of putting out an information guide geared to aid young people in choosing the career that is best suited for them. She said that young people today live in a world full of opportunities in the areas of science and technology and that they are free now to diverge from the more traditional career paths that represented success a generation ago.

Referring to the role of micro-credit institutions in supporting entrepreneurial activities in Guyana, Teixeira said that current micro-credit practices are unfriendly to young people, women and small businesses in general.

Mr Terrence Simmons, Programme Director for the United States Peace Corps of Guyana, said in his presentation that Guyana has moved from a situation where students leaving high school were absorbed into a bloated public service to one wherein the public service body has been forced to shrink without there being any corresponding increase in the size of the private sector. This, he said, has created a situation where more and more young people are graduating without any prospect of employment. He said that the assumption that simply providing young people with training programmes and workshops etc. is going to be enough to ensure their productivity is erroneous. Mr. Simmons urged that an entrepreneurial spirit, guided by a sense of discipline, be inculcated into young people today.

Director of the Guyana Youth Info Project, a Volunteer Youth Corps (VYC) Project, Ms. Meleika Thom, was next at the podium. Ms. Thom said that youths are the leaders of tomorrow, and that world leaders should invest in youth so as to ensure that they are proper leaders. She said that no proper statistics are available today in order to carry out the proper evaluation of unemployment in contemporary Guyana, but it is apparent that the rate must be very high.

Mr. Christopher Ram, newspaper columnist and partner in the accounting firm ‘Ram and McCrae’, started off his presentation by informing the audience that unemployment was not necessarily a bad thing. He said that economies need a certain level of unemployment to ensure that they are not inflationary and do not go into a labour shortage crisis every so often. Mr. Ram said that in Guyana, the empirical evidence points to an unacceptably high level of unemployment. Guyana, he said, is faced with a severe brain drain situation, a problem accelerated by globalisation and what he refers to as the “official poaching” of skilled workers by countries such as the United States and Canada. He urged that those in position try to get the younger people to stay in Guyana and to contribute to its development.

After all the panelists completed their presentations, questions from the audience were invited, after which refreshments were made available.

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