By: SASE Singh; M.Sc. – Finance, ACCA.
The jobs crisis in Guyana is enormous. According to the Bureau of Statistics (source: https://statisticsguyana.gov.gy/surveys.html#csurveys), at the end of 2017, the total population between the ages of 15 and 65 years old was 547,928 persons (the potential labour force). Some 73.5 per cent of those people reside in rural Guyana.
Of those 547,928 persons, the survey found that only 54.5 per cent of them were actively looking for work.
In Rwanda, that rate is 86 per cent; in Vietnam it is 78 per cent; St Lucia – 68 per cent; Haiti – 68 per cent; Jamaica – 67 per cent, and Trinidad – 62 per cent. Get the picture? Our potential labour force is underutilised.
The Survey found that, at the end of 2017, some 36,416 persons in Guyana were unemployed. However, when the under-employed portion is added to this number in addition to the 5,000 plus workers that were made redundant across the sugar belt, we can safely say some 56,000 able-bodied men and women who are interested in working cannot find work.
This crisis is accentuated if one shines some light on youth unemployment. It was found to be twice that of the adult rate, at almost 23 per cent. If the lens were narrowed to the population of young women in particular, female youth unemployment increases to 30 per cent. The bottom-line remains that 1 in 4 young persons who wanted to enter the labour force could not find work at the end of 2017.
Based on my preliminary survey on the ground in March 2019, the situation appears worse. This is no joking matter, Mr. Granger, you have failed the youths with an “F” GRADE on the job creation front.
The solution? Though it might be too late for Team Granger, it is certainly not too late for the incoming Government after the upcoming elections. It is imperative that they attack this underemployment crisis head-on. The core solution lies in the empowerment of the private sector. This can easily be done by the state sector breaking down all doors that inhibit free and fair direct investments. This has proven in many progressive countries, like Rwanda and Singapore, as the key to creating the necessary new jobs. The optimum outcome is new innovations in the workplace to increase productivity.
Entrepreneurs like Yesu Persaud and Peter D’Aguiar are a rare species in Guyana today. But more than ever, thinkers and risk-takers of this calibre are vitally needed to expand competitiveness of the economy. I am not speaking of traders who import and sell goods; anyone can do that. I am speaking about thinkers and risk-takers who are creating new value and niche products every year for the export market. It is a proud private celebration for me when I observe the El Dorado rum from Guyana on the top shelf at some of the best hotels in Washington DC.
What Guyana needs is more Yesus and Peters, and by the dozens; and that will only happen if two things are done urgently. One: targeted state support for the investment sector, and two: implement massive reform in the education sector.
Every Region must have a new industrial site that is ready-to-produce for the export market. All are welcome, but only the exporters should receive the benefits of tax holidays and duty free status for a definite incubation period.
Secondly, school leavers must be produced who can feed the needs of the private sector in the main. If the private sector needs chemists, then UG must offer full scholarships to Chemistry Majors for a specified time, and so on. This must be a joint effort between the private sector and the state sector.
On top of that, international special short courses to drive the introduction of innovative technologies and work processes must be run periodically at UG, to allow our top executives in both the State and Private Sectors, along with some of their technicians, to boost their competence. A great course for a start would be: how to set up a petrochemical industry in Guyana using real executives and trainers from world-class schools such as the National University of Singapore and the Punjab Engineering College of Chandigarh, India.
Lastly, but very importantly, Guyana has to accelerate its ambition to secure low cost and reliable electricity. The Amaila Falls Hydro Power Plant must be built, but in an environment of transparency and full public disclosure, unlike what we saw with the US$18 million oil advance to the Granger regime. Because of the size of this investment, during construction, it will boost the economy by 6 per cent per year for 4 years. That situation fits neatly into a development timeline that can absorb the full impact of the oil revenue by 2025.
Great things can happen for all the people of Guyana. It requires time, effort and true grit from whoever sits as the President of Guyana. Does Mr. Granger want to see this truth?
Feel free to contact me at [email protected]