Castries, Saint Lucia, Sunday October 3, 2021:— One week after Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre took his concept of and quest for more youth involvement in creation of The Youth Economy to the global community through his September 25 inaugural address to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, it continues to be discussed at home (and abroad) by Saint Lucians young and old.
Pierre told the UN last Saturday: “As we maneuver the turmoil of these unprecedented times, the young people must be brought into the mainstream of national development.”
“Too often,” he said, “the Youth are placed on the back burner when things get rough and the belt used for economic tightening is strung around their very necks.”
“Such an approach,” he added, “fails to consider the immense energy, enthusiasm and creativity which young people bring to the development table.”
For this reason, Pierre said, “Saint Lucia has prioritized the implementation of The Youth Economy as the new frontier” of the island’s economic development, formalized through creation of a brand-new ministry, under the purview of the Prime Minister, with “a mandate for propelling young Saint Lucians to turn their talents, skills and hobbies into economic enterprises for their own empowerment.”
“We see our young people as a resource to be molded and optimized, not as problems to be managed or solved, he said, adding: “We believe that a country must consider the aspirations of its young citizens and turn them into concrete and practical assets, purposes and goals.”
PM Pierre said his new administration – then just six weeks in office — was “committed to improving the lives of our young people, especially the most vulnerable…”
He also said his government was “working with all citizens to assist them in transforming their lives and to make viable contributions to the economy.”
The new Prime Minister, having established the ministry, invited “the international community” to “discuss and engage with us strategically, on mutually-beneficial relationships and projects to promote The Youth Economy, as we seek to build a better and more sustainable future for all.”
The Youth Economy prominently featured and the establishment of the related ministry was promised in the Saint Lucia Labour Party’s 2021 Elections Manifesto, “to provide tailored incentives to youth” and to “allow them to turn hobbies into entrepreneurial activities and skills into businesses.”
It also promised to “Provide financing” to operationalize ideas and transform dreams, “Provide Marketing Support” for the “budding enterprises” and to “Encourage programs that support skills training, mentorship and the development of their emotional intelligence, to assist them in becoming successful young entrepreneurs.”
The establishment of the ministry, the SLP also promised, would be “to ensure that the youth economy is an integral part of the wider economy”, as well as “creation of a young indigenous business class that can enhance local wealth creation.”
The SLP’s manifesto also promised the ministry would “administer the programs and activities of the Youth Economy” and “Provide the required training to ensure that the skill-sets of young people are adequate to meet the needs of a global market.”
True to his party’s elections campaign promise, the Prime Minister immediately gave the Ministry for the Youth Economy prime importance in his line-up of Cabinet responsibilities.
But even as he addressed the UNGA on September 25, Saint Lucia’s youth had less than two days earlier (on January 23) also given prime importance to joining their Caribbean counterparts in a virtual regional Youth Parliament, calling on the world’s governments to (among other things) ensure inclusion of youth in discussion and decision-making that’ll affect the region’s future — and future generations.
The virtual youth parliament also issued a lengthy resolution calling on world governments to do more to protect the environment — and to ensure the success of the upcoming COP-26 Global Climate Summit in Glasgow.
The online parliamentary session also followed the recent emphasis on the need to cater for the region’s youth in an appeal to the 6th Summit of the Conference of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) — held in Mexico less than three days earlier (on September 18) — by Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
Skerrit noted that while he was “the youngest” leader at the table, he was also among those who established the CELAC and urged fellow Presidents and Prime Ministers to show more confidence in youth at national, regional and global levels.
PM Pierre’s UNGA references to The Youth Economy and invitation to colleague Heads-of-Government to give active consideration to its objectives also underlined the emphasis CARICOM’s leadership places on giving young people their rightful place in all decision-making processes.
Six months earlier (in February), CARICOM Heads of Government – through the Prime Ministerial Subcommittee (PMSC) on Reparations – had called for inclusion of Youth representatives on National Reparations Committees (NRCs).
Pierre’s Youth Economy concept, while still fresh, is also already being discussed by national youth entities such as the National Youth Council (NYC), which last week met the island’s Youth Minister Kenson Casimir, where related matters were discussed.
The Saint Lucia National Students Council (SLNSC) also has a stake in the Youth Economy discussion and indications are that the various youth entities here are quite interested in knowing more about how best they can help build an entity that will do more than just provide annual financial subventions.
Across the world, youth votes are the most highly sought after when General Elections are called, but the general tendency has been for winning parties to place their brightest promises to young people on the political back-burner.
But not this time, when the SLP’s leader ensured his party delivered, from the very beginning, on its promise to give young people of all political persuasions a similar chance to partake in the building of the proposed Youth Economy.
The new PM, having delivered, can only now continue…