The future belongs to young people
Guyana’s Independence on 26th May 1966 was a transformative experience that opened opportunities for everyone but, particularly, for young people.
Independence was transformative. It brought forward-looking changes which improved the living and working conditions for all, including our youth. It laid the foundation for a better life for future generations.
The immediate post-Independence decade was a period of effective efforts aimed at expanding the country’s infrastructure and improving public services. These nation-building initiatives propelled rapid improvements in the country’s economic, physical and social infrastructure.
Infrastructure – such as aerodromes, bridge across the Demerara River, highways and wharves – was expanded. Community centres, health clinics, housing schemes and many new schools were established. The economy was set on a path of growth. Public services – water and electricity – were extended to unserved areas.
Economic and financial institutions, such as the Guyana National Cooperative Bank and the Guyana Agricultural Development Bank provided much needed access to capital for households, farmers and manufacturers. The Guyana Marketing Corporation assisted farmers to transport their produce to markets.
Social protection was revamped, including through the establishment of the National Insurance Scheme. Social cohesion was advanced. Recognition was accorded to all of our main religious groups and steps taken to reduce the divisiveness of the period just prior to Independence. The introduction of free education from nursery to university emphasised the importance of ensuring a sound education for our young people and of reducing distinctions of class, gender and geography.
The newly-independent state strolled onto the global stage with confidence. It became respected and recognized for its efforts at advancing the cause of the developing countries, particularly of the small African, Caribbean and Pacific states.
Guyana, today, is poised for another transformative moment. The commencement of petroleum production, next year, and the transition towards becoming a ‘green’ state, will increase economic growth and provide greater resources for development.
The future belongs to young people. The resources derived from economic expansion and diversification will be deployed, primarily, to secure and safeguard our children’s and grandchildren’s future. Young people can be assured of greater opportunities as a result of oil production and the policies of the Guyana Green State Development Strategy.
Young people have started to play a pivotal role in driving development. Your government is preparing young people to assume responsibility for our nation’s future. A National Youth Policy has been promulgated. The ‘Policy’ explains Government’s vision as:
… a nation in which young people are united, educated, trained, safe, happy, healthy and integrally involved in the decision-making processes, while enjoying equality of opportunity and equal access to the resources of our country and are politically, economically and socially empowered.
Education, equality, empowerment and employment are the four pillars of our national youth policy. The good life, regardless of the resources available to us, will be unattainable unless young people have access to better education, enjoy greater equality, are provided with expanded employment opportunities and are empowered to make decisions which determine their future.
Education is a bedrock of government’s youth development policy. Government’s policy of every child in school aims at ensuring that no one is left behind. Young people are being equipped with the knowledge and skills to become productive citizens. An ‘education nation’ is being established. Education is being enhanced at all levels – nursery, primary, secondary and tertiary.
Equality is integral for youth development. Your Government, already, is creating a fairer, friendlier framework for ensuring greater equality by providing improved access to public services – business registration, immigration, legal services, public education, public health, public information, public infrastructure, public security, public telecommunications, electricity and water. Young people in the hinterland can look forward, one day, to having access to the same public services as those on our coastland.
Employment for all is possible. The Guyana Youth Corps is retraining our youth to improve their ‘marketability’ and to make easier the transition between school and the workforce. The Corps reflects Government’s emphasis on consolidating its youth initiatives so as have a stronger focus on employment and job creation.
Your government also is committed to reducing the numbers of young people who are not in education, employment or in training (NEET). The Sustainable Livelihoods and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED); the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS); and the Youth Innovation Project of Guyana (YIPoG) initiatives are other examples of how Government is helping to promote self-employment for young people.
Empowerment of young people has become a reality. Local Government Elections, held twice in three years has evinced a surge in youth involvement in local democracy. Young candidates contested and campaigned in local government elections in 2016 and 2018.
Youth today have a greater say in decision-making. Young professionals and entrepreneurs are being consulted in the fashioning of our national Budget. Young people’s opinions and interests are taken into consideration in the development of Government policies.
The future belongs to young people. This axiom is true today as it was 53 years ago when Guyana attained its Independence. The central aspiration of the independence generation was to secure a better future for their children and grandchildren. Young people, today, can look to a bright future with greater confidence, enthusiasm and hope knowing that their government is laying a stronger foundation for the good life for them and their children.
I extend to all Guyanese, but especially to our young people, greetings and best wishes on the occasion of the 53rd Independence anniversary.
Happy Independence Day 2019!