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A budget for our young people

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Excerpt from contribution to the 2009 Budget Debates
– Emphasis on Education

Mr. Speaker, it will be remiss of me if I failed to recognise this budget as one which seeks to set a platform for the youth of our nation to be able not only to dream, but to dream and be able to achieve our dreams. Our Government continues to ensure that dreams are fulfilled. The youth of this nation, they are so important that in every aspect of my presentation I will attempt to show how this budget positively impacts on our young people.{{more}}

This budget takes into consideration in every material particular that there is a need for the nurturing of an exceptional cadre of multitalented youth.

Before I go into the substantive parts of my presentation, the Hon. Prime Minister must be congratulated on presenting an outstanding budget. When millions are loosing jobs in the First World, we have been able to create 171 new positions. In every sense, this budget addresses the fundamental concerns of all hard working patriotic Vincentians, but special attention has been given to the poor.

This year’s budget takes into consideration particularly the needs of the poor and working class people, whilst not forgetting the important role which must be played by the private sector as a key driver in our economy.

I listened attentively to the Hon. Opposition Leader’s response, which turned out to be an address of doom and gloom. It reminds me of the story in the Book of Numbers, Chapter 13. The story was told that Moses sent out different men from various tribes in Israel on an instruction from God. He told them to go and seek out the Land beyond, and he instructed them to see if the land was good or bad.

The men who went out reported that the Land floweth with milk and honey. However, when they were instructed to go and possess the Land, they said that the Land had Giants and in the sight of these Giants we will look like grasshoppers. The people started to murmur.

The story goes on to say that it took the strong faith of Moses to lead the people to the Promise Land. But because of doubt, the people of God had to spend a much longer time in the wilderness. This negative, timid and murmuring approach is descriptive of the Hon. Leader of the Opposition’s address.

The young people of today are the men and women of a fast approaching tomorrow. For the most part, their successes or failures will impact directly on the success or failure of this nation, and our Government recognizes the importance of our young people.

This budget is geared at having such a profound impact on the youth by dealing with the needs of young people so expansively that there was no way that the Hon. Leader of the Opposition could have spoken about young people directly without sounding praises to our Government.

In the 2009 Budget, the education sector has been allocated approximately $127 million or 23% of recurrent spending and $36.8 million or 18.7% of capital expenditure. The progress continues for our young people in education. The Fair Hall Primary School was completed in August 2008 and is open for instruction. The first phase of the Intermediate High School at Mc Kies Hill was completed last year and the second phase is nearing completion. The Barrouallie Secondary, the Bequia Primary, and the Edinboro Secondary have targeted completion dates in the first half of next year. The Union Island Secondary is due to be completed late next year, and construction is about to start-up on the Fountain-Belair Secondary in West St. George.

Further, the expansion of secondary schools at North Union, Colonarie, Buccament, Adelphi, West St. George, Sandy Bay, and J.P Eustace, Kingstown, at a cost of $2.5 million; upgrading of school premises at a cost of $700,000; the Book Loan Scheme Phase 11 at a cost of $1.5 million and the completion of the Modern National Library and the start-up of the Lecture Theatre/Performing Centre spending $8.5 million in 2009 all show an emphasis on the importance of the education of our young people.

In the 2009 Budget sizeable sums have also been directly allocated to the category “Youth” and associated areas of Sports and Culture. Together, this amounts to $7.6 million which includes $2.8 million for the Yes programme; $710,000 for the National Sports Council; and $550,000 for the Carnival Development Corporation. The National Lotteries Authority also spent in excess of $2 million dollars in its last financial year on sports and culture and the Social Investment Fund more than $2.5 million this year on youth and sporting facilities.

Now that we have the budgetary framework within which we will operate in 2009, it is not too early for us to declare 2009 as the year of the Productivity Revolution.

The creativity of youth, together with our penchant for experimentation, will always position us as the agents for social change. The dynamic and relatively revolutionary nature of our circumstances leads some commentators to classify our youth as a vulnerable group.

But we are as much a vulnerable group as we allow ourselves to be. A St. Vincent and the Grenadines in which every young person has the chance to succeed through personal hard work does in fact describe our present reality, what is absent in most instances, is the necessary will and drive to fight to succeed.

Our Government has brought new hope to our youth. Our Government shares the vision of a better society for our young people. Hence our Government has sought to employ a vigorous and calculated approach outlining a series of policies and interventions that will advance the causes of young people.

The vision of our Government for our youth is to create programmes that will make it possible for every young Vincentian to eagerly and enthusiastically participate in national development and nation building. This is the common thread which flows through every governmental policy, Department and Ministry.

To our youth, no one could have said it better than Antonio in the Merchant of Venice,

“I hold the world but as the world,
A stage, where every man must play a part”
We must harness the resources in our non-performers!

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.

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