Between the ‘IMANI’ and the ‘New IMANI’ we have a fully ‘adult’ program. Since 2002, thereabout, the NNP regime has implemented the IMANI as their flagship program for young Grenadians. IMANI has become highly popular even though many people do not know what the acronym stands for. Actually, it was borrowed from Canada and shamelessly bastardised by the NNP.
Undoubtedly, some benefits have flowed from and through the Program. Hundreds of young people have been helped to varying degrees, while dozens of others connected with the Program have received authorised and taken unauthorised benefits. Appreciate that the Program would have aided with social stability also.
Alongside these outcomes, there have been blatant attempts to politicise the young people for purposes of banking their votes. It is utterly amazing to see that it took the Prime Minister virtually eighteen years to realise that all was not well with the IMANI Program. Bet your life he has been aware of the financial abuse and would have given the green light for the political mischief practiced on the youth (directly or constructively).
He allocated over two hundred million dollars to the Program; assigned ministerial responsibility for it; witnessed temporary and unsustainable relief; received scores of complaints and knew the cow was being milked. His pleasure came in collecting votes!
Thinking about financial abuse, aka, corruption, some believe that at least ten percent of the two hundred million spend went that route. If true, it means that a few people have pocketed at least twenty million dollars since 2002. It also means that you and I have been over-taxed by that amount and are entitled to a refund! And the syphoning continues! Woiiii!!!
It must not escape notice that the Prime Minister’s new-found appetite for betterment in the IMANI Program has nothing to do with an objective evaluation of the Program. Actually, he was stirred by the protest and rejection voiced by sections of the young population three months ago. They took a long time to find their voice, but when they did, it shook the regime and panic entered the door of the little, wooden, green house.
Today, there is no celebration in the media but promises of “radical change” by the Prime Minister. Any such “radical change” must apply to corruption and to the deliverables of the Program. Mitchell suddenly knows that “it is not fair that we label them as IMANI trainees for all these years”. And he also suddenly knows that there has been “blatant misuse of the services of these young people by public and private sectors”. Really, Keith?
To disclose that knowledge and not take full responsibility for the harm done is virtually inhumane towards the young people. In fact, the situation is more dramatic! The youth delivered total and complete victory to Mitchell at the polls in 2013 and 2018, but now he says, “I accept part of the responsibility… because it happened under my watch”. Total and complete selfishness.
The Prime Minister recently engaged in an exhaustive critique of the ‘IMANI Program’ (as published) but he could not say, “I did not know”. He knew all along but did nothing to correct the problem. So, it is fair to indict him on this issue.
Don’t’ be fooled. There is only one Treasury in Grenada. And there is only one youth population. It is not enough to identify problems with IMANI and not do the same with the Traffic Wardens, Sanitary Wardens, MPOWER and all other programs involving young people. The practice of fleecing the public purse is widespread. Young people are still required to go through the NNP party office to get picked and they are setup to think and believe that it is a ‘green hand’ that feeds them.
Culturally, most Grenadian parents begin to plan the future of their children from infancy and harbour expectations of them doing well in life. A reasonable question therefore arises as to how come several adults in the Cabinet who have children of their own, did not pay adequate regard to the need for investing in a decent future for our youth. The answer may be found in short-sighted recklessness.
The regime may well have been more focused on political benefits rather than genuinely providing for the welfare of the youth, as a priority. They hurriedly stuck them into any hole they could find, and the rest is as taught in the ‘parable of the sower’, some fell among thorns and some fell on rocky soil! Jab doh care!
Consider this list of defects associated with the Program:
- Corrupt and abusive dealings
- Recklessness and indifference as to the ambition and dignity of the young people
- Exploitation of youth labour
- Pretense that they were workers and not trainees to boast of reduced unemployment
- NNP Party indoctrination
- Minimal (comparatively) placement in productive industries.
Today, there is political urgency surrounding the youth in Grenada. Whether snap elections or scheduled General Elections, the NNP must be able to count on this important demographic or concede defeat.
But what is required to make a qualitative difference? Window dressings will not cut it. Locating the portfolio with the Prime Minister will not amount to much. Putting the Program under the management of another band of NNP operatives will not do.
Frankly, the problem can only be corrected by serious development in the Grenadian economy, including new frontiers of economic activity. Simultaneously, a re-think is needed regarding what must be done to improve conditions in the society and in governance in Grenada.
Frankly, the regime does not have a track record that is pertinent and happy with this agenda. They have an appetite for cash and handouts (‘gold dust politics’) and superficiality in many aspects of public affairs. But the solution is not to be found in hot cash. A little cash does not represent prosperity.
COVID- 19 conditions pose significant challenges to the economy, but they also hold out many new opportunities. These are the aspects the PM must address and situate his youth programs in that context. Otherwise, he resembles the new Minister for Agriculture with incessant noises in the media promoting himself while the agricultural sector awaits promotion.