Lesotho last week welcomed the United Nations-initiated youth employment opportunity expo.
The purpose of the initiative was to create a platform whereby a large number of unemployed youth, potential employers and investors could meet and exchange ideas with the ultimate goal of working together towards the reduction of unemployment in the country.
This comes as a call from many of the country’s youth who have for a long time complained that opportunities are locked in many bureaucratic systems that prevent them from breaking the chains of unemployment.
These chains are usually exacerbated by either the policies of a government or by the private sector’s culture of “no experience no job” or “no security no funding” among money lending institutions for those who are looking for start-up capital.
It is against this background that some of us find it necessary to ponder about the effectiveness of such brave initiatives in the context of such an inflexible private sector and an unwilling political leadership.
It is a widely known fact that the public sector has failed to absorb many graduates that are roaming our streets.
However it is every reasonable man’s legitimate expectation that in the light of so many hardships government will utilise its uppermost weapon, which is policy, to direct us out of this mud cage of unemployment we are facing.
Policy that is referred to here is that which will cut back on wasteful and shameful public expenditure that leads to the dwindling of the public purse to the detriment of many development ideas that remain just ideas due to lack of funds.
This kind of policy is also long overdue to incentivise employment creation and entrepreneurial efforts across the economic board.
Cutting back on unnecessary public expenditure is not a new phenomenon across the globe when times are challenging like the present.
Although we know that some politicians develop some discomfort whenever that issue is echoed across the political and economic caves, maybe this is because it normally cuts deeply into their comfort zones such as salary and other accompanying benefits.
However, cost cutting has been a much sought remedy for many troubled states of the euro zone through the European Union’s espoused austerity measures in the recent economic hardships.
Even closer to home we heard the finance minister of the neighbouring South Africa (SA) announcing some cost cutting measures as part of government policy during his midterm budget speech in parliament last week.
The SA government has thus decided to cancel government funded ministerial credit cards and prohibit the use of alcohol during government functions.
Another most interesting part the government has decided to cut back on is the number of delegates to international trips; this is coupled with the fact that all ministers will only use the economy class on all their international trips.
As if this is not enough it was also mentioned that ministerial cars will be standardised to a single model.
If our government is of the same commitment to save the usually squandered resources and channel them towards the creation of job opportunities and other developments then it is high time our policy makers start thinking along the same lines as their counterparts in SA.
It is not reasonable to always be told about the dwindling public purse while at the same time we have our legislators enjoying an allowance of M150 for every unproductive day they spent doing parliament business yet they are paid salaries every month-end.
It also does not make sound economic sense to have the ministers being allocated two luxurious vehicles which cost over a million combined while other youths are struggling to get hold of a mere M20 000 to kick-start a piggery or a poultry project that will support his immediate family, create about 10 jobs in the process and thus promote economic growth.
Another of the many leaves that can be picked out from our neighbour’s book in as far as addressing the challenge of unemployment is the current employment Tax Incentive Bill that was put before parliament last week.
This Bill seeks to incentivise private sectors’ strides towards the absorption of many unemployed youth in SA.
Some people may argue our private sector has not matured enough to already be thinking of throwing such a huge responsibility at it.
The premise of such arguments is usually that the necessary legislative and policy framework that promotes a vibrant private sector is long overdue.
This argument is not contrary to mine which is that our policy directors continue to rest on their laurels instead of devising effective policy mechanisms that will strengthen the private sector as an alternative to the public sector in job creation.
In this light, it is clear that development partners such as the UN are acknowledging that youth unemployment is a social disease that continues to destroy our social fibre.
This they do not only show by paying lip service to the issue, but they show by taking some bold strides such as the youth employment opportunity expo 2013.
Although this is most welcome, it would be more pleasant if only our policy directors could come to the party soon enough and start deliberating on long overdue policies that will steer the country towards youth entrepreneurial development, job creation and a vibrant private sector that are necessary to rid the motherland of this youth unemployment syndrome.
- Malefane, Development Studies graduate, is a youth and environment activist based in Maseru