Private Column by Frank Short, CBE
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Saturday, 8 February 2014 7:31 AM

NO TIME TO LOSE IN TACKLING YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

The seemingly intractable problems associated with youth unemployment in Honiara and the resulting evidence of increased substance abuse, including the growing and use of marijuana, the consumption of kwaso (home brew), incidences of anti-social behaviour and criminal acts have featured significantly in Editorial columns of the local press and in other articles this past week.

Honiara isn’t alone in facing the problems highlighted and, indeed, it can be said many of the Pacific states face the same, if not more serious, issues arising from the respective nation’s ability to manage development and provide for the rapidly growing population. The Solomon Islands is no exception.

The various schemes implemented by the government, such as the rapid employment scheme and the offshore, seasonal work offered to young people engaged in fruit harvesting simply isn’t enough to meet the needs and expectations of the growing numbers of school drop outs and idle youth flooding into the national capital from the provinces.

I am not alone in describing the current situation as a security challenge akin to a ticking time bomb, although I likened the situation of the unemployed youth in 2009 to a tinder box. (See my letter to the Pacific Islands Report entitled, ‘Idle Solomons Youth a Tinder Box’, published on 10 December 2009)

I am detached from the local scene but I have repeatedly suggested ways in which help might be forthcoming for the youth in articles that I have contributed to the local Solomon Times online publication. In one article I forecast that help could possibly be sought from the Government of South Korea ('South Korean Help in Training Solomons Youth,’ dated 4 December 2008) and in another (‘A possible solution for the rural poor,’dated 10 January 2011)

In the last article, I had mentioned how the Japanese Government’s External Trade Organization (JETRO) was helping to promote Thailand’s growing and successful “OTOP” products in Japan.

I don’t know whether any of my suggestions were considered by the Solomon Islands Government.

The challenges the nation faces in respect of its unemployed young people must be tackled before the situation does become the ‘time bomb’ others have referred to.

A starting point, in this election year, I would suggest is that the government re-examine the findings and projected solutions to youth unemployment in the excellent report styled, 'The State of Pacific Youth – 2005’ written under the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF Pacific) and funded by the New Zealand’s International Aid and Development Agency (NZAID.

Yes, 2005. I haven’t written the wrong date. The information in that report is just as relevant, if not more so, than when it was first compiled and issued.

I understand copies of the report can be downloaded or obtained from the UN Children’s Fund Headquarters in Suva.

I would even go so far to suggest to the Solomon Islands Government that the author of that report, if still available, Dr. Chris McMurrary be consulted and to advise the government on measures that might be taken now.

The report is very comprehensive and clearly argued that not enough had been done to address the underlying causes of the youth unemployment problem and indicates how youths have become disempowered in the process of often being ignored and not listened to.

I do not believe that in the Solomons there is a shortage of young people with the ability, courage, enterprise and initiative to become leaders in their own right and here I single out and commend the enterprise of 23 year old Patrick Arathe in creating and productively running a cooperative farm at Kindu near Munda in the Western Province. His farm has become the largest urban agricultural enterprise on New Georgia Island and is reported to be providing the youths, amd others, with a sustainable livelihood.

Likewise, congratulations are due to Justine Fationo, a young women police officer serving as a Family Violence officer in the RSIPF. In a speech she gave this last week in the Cook Islands, when addressing a Conference of Pacific Women, she spoke passionately about her belief that Solomon's youth can become leaders in the community and she regarded herself as a future advocate for women's rights.

In the last couple of days the Solomon Islands Government has announced the launch of a National Human Resources Development and Training Plan (NHRDTP) that aims to support better employment prospects for the country’s growing youth population.

It is very much hoped that this new initiative will provide a coordinated effort to quickly deal with the plight of the unemployed youth and the training to be provided will develop a much better skilled and educated work force in readiness to fill employment opportunities that might be created at home and overseas.

The Government initiative is welcome but time will tell whether adequate and early job opportunities can be created for the problem of youth unemployment has lingered far too long.




Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Frank Short, CBE and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.