By Latrishka Thomas
Excluding the voice of the youth is “ostracising the voice of a significant bulk of the population; young people need a voice; we need to be heard”, opined two young leaders who are advocating for the inclusion of a youth representative on the Economic Recovery Commission (ERC).
In April, the government announced the establishment of the ERC, mainly to examine the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the country’s finances and to plan the way forward.
The committee, which is chaired by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, draws upon the expertise of persons outside the Cabinet, to include representatives of the Chamber of Commerce; the Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union; the Employers Federation; the Antigua Christian Council; the Antigua & Barbuda Hotels and Tourism Association; and the Bankers Association, among others.
But the President of the National Youth Council Guishonne Powell is of the view that young people need to be part of ERC “so we can let them know the matters affecting us”, since “majority of society or persons being affected in society are young people”.
“What are the plans? What are you planning to do for us?” the National Youth Ambassador questioned as he purported that plans made by the commission would not appropriately cover the struggles of youngsters.
Kamalie Mannix, the president of the National Youth Parliament Association of Antigua and Barbuda, also shared similar sentiments.
“When creating policies, essentially what you want is that every single section of society is heard because the point of government is to pull the concerns and interests of all factions of society, put it together and create a concrete plan,” he remarked.
The 21-year-old further suggested that, “20 years down the line, the people that are going to be affected the most are the people that are young now.”
Mannix also put forward recommendations which he thinks may aid the recovery of Antigua and Barbuda.
“If you are going to have economic recovery, economic growth or make businesses regain their traction so that our economy resumes normalcy as quickly as possible, I think some of these taxes need to be relaxed…for a period of time,” he stated.
He also proposed the creation of a “small business park” where the government offers “very cheap rental spaces where persons with new and small businesses can go”. The ERC has met virtually on about four occasions. Among the decisions made by the body thus far was that of re-opening the borders of Antigua and Barbuda on June 1.