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Posted: Monday 5 September, 2011 at 9:18 AM

Youths on the economic scrap heap

By: Vernon Harris- Economist

    A cold economic freeze has taken control of the economies of the Caribbean countries as the recession has tightened its hold on the economies of Western Europe, the USA and North America. Several European Nations are struggling for economic and social survival as their economies flounder on the brink of disaster. The Caribbean economies are small with a narrow or non-existent manufacturing base. Most, like St. Kitts and Nevis are overly dependent on a fickle industry called tourism. The tourism industry has been declining in this Federation since 2004. The negative impact was felt from 2008 to the present. Unemployment in that sector has increased and there is no visible end in sight.


    The harsh economic realities of the Recession which is crippling the Federation must be faced. Principle amongst these is unemployment and a reduction in the level of investment as aggregate demand in the economy falls. Youth unemployment has been rising at a pace that threatens social stability in the short run and poses serious economic as well as social problems for the future. During a Recession in this Federation, history suggests that the least skilled and experienced workers are always the first to lose their jobs in tough times. Young people and older workers are twice as likely to be laid off. With hundreds leaving the High Schools and the College every summer, the negative economic and social effects are alarming. Those most severely affected are the young unskilled males in the poorest sectors of the country. The CDB Poverty Assessment Report (2008) commented that this segment of the population has no savings or career prospects and live in overcrowded housing. This accounts for 24% of the population who are unable to afford a plate of food daily. The report commented that the poor live in overcrowded conditions and their children are denied the relevant amount of calories which will enable them to learn properly in school.


    The Education thrust in the Nation has focused on meeting performance targets at Test of standards and CXE. This has diverted attention from the VITAL goal of achieving core LITERACY and NUMERICAL skills.An alarming 57 % of students who enter high school do not graduate. The failure of the Education system lies at the heart of the social problems in St. Kitts. Budgetary constraints and this misdirected philosophy have delivered an unrequited result of underachievement and low literacy skills with large number of students leaving school without any qualifications. Government expenditure on Education has averaged 11% of Recurrent Revenue. Debt service on an unsustainable National Debt of EC$3 billion, amounts to 47%. No attempt has been made to invest in the technical and skills aspect of education and training to prepare and equip our young to participate fully and contribute meaningfully to economic and social development.


    Essentially the Nation has failed its young people by not providing for their future. The level of real poverty in the Federation is alarmingly high. It will escalate as the VAT the increases in electricity rates RAISE THE COST OF LIVING whilst reducing aggregate demand. Remittances from abroad have been reduced to a trickle. The net result has been that the recession has taken a severe hold on this economy. Young people have no future in this country which has not planned for economic development or provided opportunities for them to emerge as tradesmen or technicians o even become self- employed. The IMF has imposed punitive economic and financial measures on this country, whilst proposing that this Nation sells its ASSETS. The country’s assets are land, natural and human resources. The sale of these assets will further impoverish this country and leaves it at the mercy of the IMF and the landed gentry who will now further enslave the people. That august institution has declared that these measures will result in economic growth. These measures will to some extent increase Government revenue but not to the extent which is envisaged, since revenue can only be derived from aggregate demand and this will continue to decline, as wages and salaries remain stagnant and unemployment increases.


    The Nation must prepare itself for several years of NEGATIVE growth with the accompanying increase in crime and criminal activities which are the result of poor economic and financial planning. The Government has no fiscal space and no viable economic ideas are being fostered for debate and analysis. The active participation of the private sector in all aspects of economic and financial policy making is vital if this Nation is to survive the impending economic disaster. Gangs have not materialized out of thin air.They are social groupings which are the results of depravation, poor education, hunger and the knowledge that this Nation has nothing to offer the young people.


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