‘Opportunity through Enterprise’: a Commonwealth commitment

QUEEN ELIZABETH II, Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom (UK), signed the new Commonwealth Charter on March 11.
Kayitana ka Ruterandongozi
Kayitana ka Ruterandongozi

QUEEN ELIZABETH II, Queen of Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom (UK), signed the new Commonwealth Charter on March 11.  In her speech, the Queen highlighted this year’s Commonwealth theme, ‘Opportunity through Enterprise’ and called for “celebrating economic innovation throughout the Commonwealth and a commitment towards the youth, social and sustainable enterprise”.

Given the record-high unemployment, especially among the youth, ranging from 41 per cent unemployed youth in St. Lucia to 15 per cent in Canada, it is absolutely necessary to invest in young people and prevent the loss of a generation or more.

Efforts aimed at increasing youth employment have, so far, focused on tax rebates for employers that hire young people or offer them opportunities for apprenticeship. However, in an economic recession employers are busy trying to reduce their operating costs in order to stay in business and are unwilling to hire the youth. Those that decide to take advantage of such government support programmes hire youth for short periods and lay them off as soon as the government has delivered its part of the bargain. What young people need are stable, good-paying jobs that will give them the opportunity to develop their skills and careers and grow into mature and competent adults. The economic recession is expected to continue well into 2017. This is an opportunity for young people to focus their energy and time on acquiring skills that will increase their chances of getting a good-paying and stable job in the future or create stable jobs for themselves and others.

The Commonwealth approach of “individuals and communities finding ways to strive together to create a better future that is beneficial for all”, can facilitate the training and support of young people over the next four years.

Developed countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK can facilitate the transfer of technical training to less developed countries in the Commonwealth.

This would empower the youth to get employable skills that will help them secure stable jobs and rewarding careers. Training for technical occupations such as geological and mineral technologists and technicians, forestry technologists and technicians, civil engineering technologists and technicians, manufacturing technologists and technicians, computer network technicians and user support technicians is needed. There is also a demand for regulatory officers such as agricultural and fish products, public and environmental health and safety, and construction inspectors.

The economic recession has reduced government revenues and their ability to allocate substantial funds to social and physical infrastructure projects. However, investing in our youth is a worthwhile investment that will reap enormous benefits for individuals and communities throughout the Commonwealth. It will require bold hearts that are willing to invest a portion of their enormous private wealth in the training and education of our youth.

Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth, could take the lead and inspire other wealthy people in the Commonwealth to dedicate a portion of their fortunes to the training and support of our youth over the next four years.

Prince Philip once described the Queen as the “Commonwealth psychotherapist”. Given her intellectual acuity, she is aware of the long-term consequences of high unemployment among the youth and the sense of hopelessness this creates. Her Majesty will heal the psychological stress experienced by our youth when she invests a portion of her vast wealth in the future of the young people of the Commonwealth. This will motivate other wealthy people in the Commonwealth, in a spirit of teamwork, to do the same.

Investing in our youth will empower them with skills that enable them to take advantage of opportunities to launch and sustain profitable enterprises. This will ensure that the Commonwealth is fit and agile for the years ahead. After all, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’.

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