Written by: Chris Patterson
Members of the Youth Advisory Council have been charged to play a greater role in engaging young people about the various policies and programmes of the Government, which have been implemented to enhance their lives.
The call came from Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), with responsibility for Information, Hon. Robert Morgan, while addressing members of the Youth Advisory Council, during a meeting at Jamaica House in St. Andrew, on September 27.
“We have an opportunity with this initiative to really make a big impact in bridging the conversation between young people and the Government. I want to declare an activation of this initiative… which is the Prime Minister’s initiative… so that he can now come out and say these are the things we are going to be doing over the next couple months to engage young people in a different way,” the Minister said.
“A lot of young people don’t understand what Government is doing. Some of them don’t believe that Government is working for them, even though we may spend billions of dollars on initiatives geared at young people,” he added.
Mr. Morgan argued that new avenues of communicating to the targeted group are critical in getting the various messages across, noting that greater collaboration with the Council is integral in the process.
“We need a translator… . How can you speak for me if you don’t understand me, and I think that is the fundamental objective. We have to identify the problem, define the problem, find the solutions, implement the solutions and then articulate the implementation. That is how I see things going forward, so over the next couple [of] months, we [must] have a very close relationship,” he said.
Mr. Morgan suggested that members of the Council liaise with the respective Ministers regarding various policies and programmes, “to engage with youth appropriately”.
Pointing specifically to the National Identification System (NIDS), he said the Council can assist in engaging young persons about the benefits of the system.
Being implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister, NIDS is intended to provide a comprehensive and secure structure to enable the collection and storage of identity information.
“NIDS is the most consequential policy decision for our generation. There are previous generations that had NIS (National Insurance Scheme), NHT (National Housing Trust), all of which have changed the historical trajectory of the nation and have improved the lives of our people immensely,” the Minister said.
“NHT, calendar year, spends about $50 billion on mortgages and housing developments. NHT has about 8,000 housing starts on average annually since 2016. The Prime Minister wants to build 70,000 houses within the next three years. That’s a big deal. NIDS is our generation’s big deal,” he added.
Some of the other areas of collaboration, the Minister noted, include health, the environment, and industry.
Mr. Morgan was joined by Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Floyd Green, who has responsibility for the NIDS project; Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Hon. Matthew Samuda; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr. the Hon. Norman Dunn.
Co-Chair, Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica, Orville Levy, said some of the initiatives the Council has worked on, to date, include a youth think tank forum, digital literacy workshop, human resource seminar, empowerment session on youth employability, among others.
“One of the things that we have always pushed is to see how best we can get youth voices into the respective places and also to be representative of all youth voices. So, whenever we present viewpoints or suggestions…they come from the people on the ground, so we have that bottom-up approach in terms of our leadership,” he said.
The Council will help to facilitate dialogue between young people and government ministries, departments and agencies. The group embodies the Government’s commitment to treat youth as full and equal partners in the decision-making process.