The importance of investing in people

The Bahamas has a high unemployment rate and low levels of achievement in education. These factors contribute to our high crime rate. Between 2007 and 2017 there were five murder records.

There are those who call for hanging as the solution to our crime problem. Hanging won’t help. We must focus on investing in our young people, rather than meting out final punishments after they become deviants and take lives unjustly. If there were more productive opportunities to choose from, fewer individuals would be lured to the life of crime and violence.

The previously announced citizen security and justice program between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the government has this focus. The aim of the $20 million initiative is to contribute to crime reduction. There is a focus on non-violent conflict resolution; helping make at-risk youth more employable; strengthening justice system services; and reducing the recidivism rate in the prison.

The government in July signed another agreement with the IDB for a $50 million jobs and skills program, of which the IDB will lend The Bahamas $20 million, while the government provides the other $30 million.

“This program is the result of significant partnership work between the IDB and the government of The Bahamas over the past decade, which includes the IDB-financed wage and productivity survey, which was a survey of some 2,378 firms, Bahamian firms,” said Michael Nelson, IDB acting country representative for The Bahamas, during a press conference at the Ministry of Finance.

“[It] concluded that among the difficulties was finding the right skill set within the labor market, specifically with relation to job skills, as well as the applicants’ lack of experience and lack of soft skills. And as such, there has been some challenge in improving labor productivity in the country.”

After the loan the government is expected to finance the program.

The first component of this initiative involves an apprenticeship program and an advanced apprenticeship program for the unemployed and school leavers between the ages of 16 to 40.

Unemployment nationally was 10 percent in May 2018. The youth unemployment rate was 24.1 percent.

Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said there will be a fair selection process and the program will be open to all, including those on the Family Islands.

The apprenticeship program will focus on three industries: information and technology; maritime and shipping; and medical services.

These are the types of programs, if well managed and followed through on, that change the lives of people in need. Skills training enables individuals to approach the job market with something to offer. Too many of our young people leave school with little to offer other than their physical labor. Helping people become employable and self-sufficient is of the most important work of government.

The Minnis administration is advancing responsible social policy initiatives through the citizen security initiative, the Over-the-Hill revitalization effort and this new jobs and skills program. Our young people can be saved. We should not just bad-mouth them and complain. There is too much cynicism in The Bahamas. Let’s work toward fixing our problems, rather than merely whining about what is wrong.

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