National Budget failing to serve the youths

National Budget failing to serve the youths

THE National budget is a crucial document in fuelling the functionality of the development levers of our society.
It is the glue that binds the policies, activities and programmes for youth economic empowerment.
Like previous budgets, the 2018/19 budget understands very well the significance of responding to youth needs.
That is why it placed emphasis on youth economic empowerment through job creation and entrepreneurship.

For that, we could credit the youth civil society that has successfully advocated for clear and unambiguous inclusion of youths into other government policy processes.
While these efforts are commendable we must be cautious not to pop the champagne yet because most budgets have not translated into meaningful dividends for the youths.
The inclusion of the youths in the budget seems to be a deception perpetuated by those with civic and political powers to appease the youths and stop them from screaming about their plight.
The 2018/19 budget creates an opportunity for the launch of the Lesotho Youth Employment Grant to be “a comprehensive solution in tackling the issue of inaccessibility to finance by young entrepreneurs around the Kingdom of Lesotho”.

It says “the grant will support the high potential, innovative and impactful start-up ideas and empower the existing youth and women-run enterprises to expand and access new markets and/or develop new products and services beyond their current limited capacities.”
That sounded like an urgent intervention but four months into the fiscal year, nothing of that sort has happened.

The Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation ­— being the custodian of youth economic empowerment interventions — still has no position on how youths can access the Lesotho Youth Employment Grant which the budget declared as already launched.
The Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing, the most direct curator of emerging entrepreneurship projects, is expected to have through its division of Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation issued clear position from the day the launch is declared on how enterprising youths can access the Lesotho Youth Employment Grant.
In the final analysis the two Ministries should be clear on how they are working on this programme, especially now that its expiry is fast approaching.

With only two and half quarters remaining, there are high possibilities that the Employment Grant to Youth is yet another hoax plonked in the government policy documents and will at the end of the year have faded away or be recklessly and quickly disbursed under the unfortunate process known as March Final.
The 2017/18 budget is another unkind glut of information which registers the need for expansion of opportunities for youth job creation and entrance into entrepreneurship so as to solve the escalation of youth unemployment.

While recognising that in 2017 a National Youth Policy was completed by the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation, what matters to the youths is the implementation.
It matters not how many documents you put out because in the absence of implementation they remain irrelevant to the youths.
By now, the powers-that-be should know what is lacking, what should be done, and how to do it.
As of now, the policy remains just another repetition of what is articulated in the budgets over the years.
It is no longer clear which is following what?

Is the policy based on the budget or the budget is based on the policy?
This lack of clarity is apparent in the poor implementation of the budget when it comes to youth issues.
A budget that should be enabling the performance of policies, strategies and programmes every year turns into a white elephant blocking the successful implementation of programmes for the youths.

The 2016/17 budget is not poles apart from the 2018/19 and 2017/18 budgets.
Both budgets confer one thing which is just different in approach: the 2018/19 budget creates an opportunity for Lesotho Youth Employment Grant while the 2016/17 creates an opportunity to finance the Social Compact programme to a tune of M5 million “which assists youth groups with equipment that will enable them to start businesses”.
The impact of the Social Compact Programme on Youth entrepreneurship is close to nil. This gives the impression that government is not committed to helping the youths but in creating an illusion that it cares.

It is evident from the three budgets there is no commitment to youth issues.
The hoax is becoming clear for all to see.
Youth economic empowerment is not even charity or favour but a moral, policy or legal obligation of those holding the civic and political powers.
Though the fiscus (budget) is the glue that binds every policy endeavour, the youths correspondingly need to realize that not every youth empowerment programme should be left entirely in the hands of the Government Operatives.

The youths have to lead the way into their own economic empowerment, use available resources, whilst holding the Government accountable over what it has to be doing. It’s responsible citizenry to hold the government to account.

It has always been time for the state to recognise that when such failures are raised by youths, the intention is not to score cheap political points. Those in power should welcome such criticism because it means that the youths are becoming the relevant resources that can provide counsel towards a better performance.
The youths are not a problem that the Government Operatives feel the need to protect themselves against.

The animosity between the youths and the government is only in the minds of those who don’t understand the dynamics in that relationship.

• Zweli Matsoso is an entrepreneur and executive director of Lead Youth Empowerment Institute, a non-profit youth development consultancy and think tank. He writes in his personal capacity.

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