Opposition Leader Dr. Gale Rigobert said she would like to see more youth involved in the governance of the country, while creating more employment opportunities from them.
Dr Rigobert told St Lucia News Online (SNO) recently, this move could create greater opportunity for dialogue and policy input as well as lead to greater development for the island. While she believes that Saint Lucia has come some distance in making this possible, the opposition leader thinks there is still room for improvement.
Dr Rigobert told SNO there aren’t any readily available avenues to absorb the talents of students leaving secondary schools and those who continue to return after studying overseas on an annual basis.
“Where do these people turn to? You may want to suggest to them that they volunteer in the interim and not to expect a salary for their talent or the work they do and/or that they consider becoming entrepreneurs… but the absence of investments in the productive sector needs to be resuscitated,” she said.
The opposition leader expressed disappointment over recent developments that points to government considering a 10 per cent pay cut or retrenchment in the public service sector. If this is to occur, Dr. Rigobert said it will put an even greater strain on trying to correct the current situation of high youth unemployment on the island. She believes it is therefore important to have dialogue with all stakeholders to tackle the issue from bottom up.
“But when businesses are closing or banks are restricting the level of borrowing then where do they turn to? I have been insisting that government come to the people with the truth about the economic plight of this nation and collectively agree on a way forward. There is no real benefit of hiding behind statistical machinations and semantics… spell it out to the people and let us as a nation determine a way forward,” she urged.
Dr Rigobert said structural adjustment is staring Saint Lucia in the face whether it is voluntary or imposed. She said, “I leave that to the wisdom of the government, but certainly something needs to happen so as to create employment… we need to jump-start the private sector and the government needs to curtail spending…the high youth unemployment is evident.”
Government’s investment in the non-productive sector is alarming, she posited. The opposition leader said if money is invested in the productive sector, it could perhaps go a long way and a longer distance in creating more sustainable jobs, not just for young people, but for other persons who are unemployed as well.
“They are just too many people losing their jobs and then they are so many others who just can’t seem to find jobs in this country. You walk through the streets and markets you will see it.”
St Lucia has recorded an increase in unemployment, according to figures released here recently by the Department of Statistics. These figures indicate that at the end of the third quarter last year, the unemployment figure had risen by more than one per cent to 24.9 per cent. The two-year survey showed that 17, 000 people were out of jobs.
The unemployment figures come at a time when government has outlined various initiatives to stimulate growth in the economy and generate jobs.
During the campaign for the 2011 general election, the then opposition St. Lucia Labour Party promised to increase employment through initiatives such as the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE) and the Short Term Employment Programme (STEP). These programmes has made some progress, but not to a large extent.