State Finance Minister Affirms Importance of Nation’s Youth

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YOUTH FORUM – Minister of State for Finance, the Hon. Zhivargo Laing is pictured as he listens in on discussions at the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture’s Youth Forum in Freeport Friday. Pictured standing from left are Mrs. Janet Russell, Assistant Director of Youth; Minister Laing; and Ms Autherine Turnquest, Director of Youth. (Photo/Vandyke Hepburn)

By Simon Lewis

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama
– Minister of State for Finance the Hon. Zhivargo Laing affirmed Friday that it is sensible to take into full account of the views and suggestions of the nation’s youth since young people make up the largest portion of the Bahamian population.

Mr. Laing’s comments came as he addressed the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Education’s Youth Forum held at the Worker’s House Auditorium. The aim of the Forum is to garner ideas and suggestion on the Ministry’s proposed National Youth Policy.

Friday’s Youth Forum brought together some forty young persons from organizations and schools on Grand Bahama and saw groups focusing on areas such as Education, Employment, Crime, Abuse, Government and more.

Mr. Laing told the gathering that he was happy to be attending the forum because so much of his development started with the Ministry of Youth, which recruited him in youth work and allowed him to represent the country at youth meetings around the world.

He recalled during his early days being involved in a similar forum which back then had focused on the proposed National Youth Service and how the young people of the nation rejected the idea.

“And so I want you to know that because they rejected that National Youth Service then, there was not a National Youth Service of the order that was being proposed, introduced in The Bahamas since. And I say that to tell you that your input can make a difference as to what the Government does or what the Government does not do,” he told the gathering.

Minister Laing, said the young persons attending the Forum had very clear ideas of the issues they were discussing and he assured that the recommendations would be considered in respect of the National Youth Policy that they will formally adopt in The Bahamas.

The Commonwealth Youth Association, he noted, has been leading a charge for some fifteen years to cause countries to adopt a formal National Youth Policy.

“Government in adopting that policy will determine in advance how it wants to respond to the development of young people; how it wants to respond to the issues that confront young people, whether that issue relates to employment, to crime or to education or social development,” he stated.

“When you consider the share size of the youth population in this country there is no group of people in The Bahamas who have the numbers you have if you are under twenty-five years old.”

He informed that nearly 54% of the nation’s population is under twenty-five years of age, and that whether one is talking business, church, education or the general society, no one group has the share numbers young people have in the country.

“When we look at the things that are influencing the social development, the social dynamics of The Bahamas you are having a bigger say in all of that than any other population set,” Minister Laing said.

Spearheaded by the Department of Youth, a similar Youth Forum is scheduled for Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Eight Mile Rock on Saturday.

The Ministry of Youth will also co-ordinate a town meeting for all youth, sporting and cultural leaders, school principal, teachers, parents, guardians, social partners and the community beginning at 6.00p.m.on Saturday at the Universal Household of Faith Church in Hawksbill.