The mission of Mr Audley Shaw
We have had our share of disappointments with prominent people paying lip service to important causes and principles, yet we sense in Mr Audley Shaw, the finance minister, a renewed and sincere zest for improving the lot of Jamaican youth.
In many of his key speeches since his appointment for a second time to the finance portfolio a year ago, and again in his budget presentation last week, he has shown unusual passion for the well-being of the youth, seeing it as integral to the growth and development of the country.
If we are right, Senator Ruel Reid, the minister of education and youth, must have received a warm and supportive hearing from the finance minister for his plans when he attended the annual budget call in September, where ministers fight to justify the figures attached to their programmes and policies for eventual inclusion in the national budget.
Finance ministers usually can’t show their sympathy for one ministry over another, in the face of the plethora of needs and the paucity of resources to meet them.
But Minister Shaw is right about the youth. The Jamaican nation will always be taking one step forward, two steps backward, as long as our youth, the future of our country, remain decimated by lack of opportunities and social malaise.
We have always known this, but while the diagnoses are plenty, solutions defy us. The various researches on Jamaican youth generally agree that:
• almost one-third of young people seeking jobs are unemployed;
• just over a quarter of all major crimes — including murders, shooting, robbery, larceny, carnal abuse and rape — are committed by young adults, mostly males;
• children and young adults account for a quarter of all intentional injuries and 27.4 per cent of all stab wound cases;
• in one year alone, 4,500 cases of abuse were reported to the Office of the Children’s Registry, with almost two-thirds of the victims being girls, and neglect being almost two-thirds of the types of abuses; and
• children and adolescents (0-19 years) account for almost a third of attempted suicide cases.
Mr Shaw, in naming the constituent groups with whom the journey of prosperity starts, was quite correct in highlighting the youth first. The following excerpts from his budget presentation are worth recalling:
“To our students, the journey to prosperity starts with doing your best at all times in the classroom, on the sports field, and in community service — an educated population is an essential requisite for national prosperity.
“To our young adults not pursuing educational opportunities or not gainfully employed, the journey starts with making personal plans and goals and engaging in good life practices consistent with strong, positive thoughts.
“Your journey can also start with developing your natural talents, acquiring new knowledge, or checking into the unattached youth programme we have just announced. Have faith in yourself and never devalue your capabilities, your skills, or potential. Remember that failure is not in falling down but in not getting back up and getting on with life.”
If indeed the finance minister is not just a flash in the pan, or not mere sound and fury signifying nothing — and we do not believe he is — then there truly is hope for a brighter future for our youth and our country.