First Forum of Ministers Responsible for Social & Sustainable Development in the Caribbean Recommends CARICOM Considers Appropriate Budget Allocation for Youth & Youth Development!

(News Release, January 28, 2010)– Among the recommendations that will be forwarded to the upcoming CARICOM Summit on Youth Development set for January 29-30, 2010 in Suriname, as well as a regional meeting of Ministers of Youth scheduled for mid-March 2010, following the convening of the First Forum of Ministers Responsible for Social & Sustainable Development in the Caribbean, held from January 24-26, 2010 in Kingston, Jamaica, is the worrying concern of whether individual CARICOM nation states are allocating enough of their budgetary for youth and youth development.

In her new capacity as President of the Forum, Jamaica’s Minister of Youth, Sports & Culture, the Honourable Olivia Grange, raised the issue of budgetary allocation when she questioned whether they were trying to encourage their Ministers of Finance and Prime Ministers to look at budget allocation in a more far reaching way, or were they looking for extra funding to make sure that their young people get the chance they really should get in life?

“If we are to look at the budget in our individual country, how much or what percentage is carved out for youth and youth development? If we look at that, I believe that could be the most telling point as to why we are not meeting our goals, and what we need to do to achieve those goals,” argued Ms. Grange, who subsequently urged participants to give more serious considerations to the budget allocation issue.

Subsequent discussions pointed to a long standing recommendation that budgetary expenditure on the social services should be within a 20% of each countries budget. In this regard, the participants thought that would be one way to get them out of the bind they were in. They agreed that a recommendation that speaks to putting more resources in was a good idea on the one hand, but on the other, felt that a big part of the problem, was not so much more financing, but a lack of co-ordination in terms of the various efforts that are already out there. They concluded that if efforts and best practices were better co-ordinated, they could even get more from existing resources.

Wading in on the issue, Assistant Director General, Social & Human Sciences, Pierre Sane, felt that the discussions that centred around whether new, increased or revised budget allocation would be possible or even desirable, it would probably be a complicated matter. “What is possible,” he argued, “is to do a budget analysis and audit from the perspective of youth policies and programmes. It is to look at the budget preparation, and then look at it from the youth perspective to see whether the efforts being planned in the budget is something that is satisfactory or not.”

As a result, a recommendation with reference to budget allocation was added to the already long list of recommendations, done along the lines of youth within the broader social sector. This was subsequently followed by a call to emphasise the need for social expenditure as a productive factor even within the context of macro-economic difficulties.

The delegates, numbering about 60 and led UNESCO’s General Conference President, Ambassador Davidson Hepburn, and who huddled together over a two-day period at the luxurious Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, their  coming together facilitated an interactive debate that helped them draw on statements each participating nation states submitted to the forum. The intention was to provide an opportunity to share their knowledge of the policy responses that have been most effective in their countries, and which could be useful to other countries in the region.

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