Posted: Wednesday August 24, 2016 11:45 CST.
Through Richard Harrison: The July 2014 estimate of Belize’s population was 340,844.
56.3% of the population was 24 years of age or younger. 97,912 were men and 94,093 were women.
21% of the population was between 15 and 24 years old. 36,432 were men and 35,093 were women, for a total of 71,525.
The unemployment rate for the youth population, those aged 15 to 24, was estimated at 22%, suggesting that 15,736 were unemployed and 55,790 were employed.
My own estimate of youth unemployment is closer to 40%, which would suggest 28,610 unemployed and 42,915 employed.
If employed people earn an average of 150 BZ per week… then the total earned by the youth population in 2014 was 334 737 000 BZ.
If employed persons paid BZ $ 13.50 per week in social security contributions, this amounts to BZ $ 30,126,330 for 2014.
If the youth population were to save 5% of their income, this would amount to a total of BZ 16,736,850 for 2014.
If they invest 5% of the earned income, that would total BZ $ 16,736,850.
This would mean that they consume 301,263,300 BZ… ..a significant contribution to the general economy…. With an estimated contribution of BZ $ 18.8 million to the general sales tax.
If the youth population grew at the same rate as the general population at 2% per year, the youth population in 2016 would rise to 74,415.
Yet… .the young people of Belize currently live from day to day.
YOUNG PEOPLE IN BELIZE CAN AND SHOULD ENJOY A BETTER STANDARD OF LIVING. HOW CAN THIS BE ACCOMPLISHED?
I. If the young unemployed were reduced to 30%, the number of unemployed in 2016 would rise to 22,324 and the employees would be 52,091. This requires the creation of 9,176 new jobs focused on young people… in tourism (15%), natural resource management / forestry (15%), information technology / services ( 20%), agro-industry / manufacturing / distribution (20%), mining / construction (20%) and entrepreneurship (10%). Public policy on tax and judicial reform, which I have spoken of elsewhere, is vital to achieving this goal.
ii. If the minimum wage were increased to BZ $ 4.00 per hour, the minimum weekly income per youth would be BZ $ 180…. Youth earning a total of BZ $ 487,571,760…. . and consuming 438 814 584 BZ. A forced savings system of 5% should accompany the increase in the minimum wage, with 20% of this fund made available to young entrepreneurs at 6.25% per year in interest … and the rest made available to young people for education, land purchases and housing construction. Organize and allow young people to invest more through private investment vehicles.
iii. The social development department should create an arm dedicated solely to youth development … to improve the morality and values of young people (especially in the workplace), to promote youth development support organizations (particularly in the pooling and development of financial resources), to increase productivity, to reduce alcohol and drug consumption, to choose healthier and less expensive diets while reducing obesity, to reduce teenage pregnancy and single parenthood living on parents, reduce transportation and education costs, and improve the self-esteem of young people, especially men … nothing short of a youth economic revolution .
iv. A debt-for-education swap should be at the heart of this accelerated engine for youth development… to the tune of US $ 300 million over ten years. Belize’s best minds (multi-stakeholder composition) should be organized to prepare the plans, sell them internationally to friendly governments, and implement them in the most effective and efficient manner. The government budget for the University of Belize should be immediately doubled using our own resources and invested in improving the quality and standards of education, so that this institution becomes the regional undergraduate flagship for education. teaching of information technology, management, tropical agriculture / agriculture. business / forestry / fishing, nursing / medical technology / pharmacy, criminal justice / forensic reporting / paralegals, teacher training and light engineering with an emphasis on plumbing, architecture, electrical, woodworking (specifically design and commercial production of exotic furniture and gift items) and production of building materials from local materials (including clay and limestone). All Belizeans with a high school average above 85% should automatically be granted a 50% scholarship… which covers tuition, books and a monthly living allowance. The university’s population will grow to over 10,000 in no time, with the participation of Belize’s best minds; as well as international students from countries that invest in debt-education swaps, and increase the number of students from countries with which Belize has education exchange and scholarship agreements.
v. A debt-for-nature swap of US $ 200 million over ten years should also be pursued intensely… .to increase our capacity and capacity to manage our natural resources, especially those which are rich in resources and threatened with encroachment. A comprehensive mineral survey, biomass survey, biogenetic stock survey, water survey and land use survey as well as development plans to sustainably exploit and / or retaining them would be beneficial to Belize and all of its trading and development partners. A BZ $ 6 million per year reforestation program would perpetually employ over 400 young people to rebuild our forest cover, our timber inventory and protect our surface and groundwater resources, so vital to Belize’s development and conservation and world heritage interests such as the Belize Great Barrier Reef. Forestry should be placed at the forefront of Belize’s long-term development plans.
vi. If these suggestions are fully taken into account, there will be a boom in private sector housing finance and construction. People who earn a stable income can finance and build their own house. Once a young person invests in land ownership, they should almost be guaranteed a home loan of their means at a rate of 6.25% pa with a duration of 20 to 30 years. 5,000 new homes per year would create at least 10,000 new and sustainable construction jobs in the economy. Young Belizean men would return to work and move away from drug and alcohol abuse, support their young families and regain much of their self-esteem … A rebound in the construction industry is the most important for the correction of the general economy direction of Belize and especially for the young people. It should be led by the private sector, with public sector policies to support it. We don’t need to repeat the government and corrupt ways of the past… we should learn from our “mistakes”.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and service companies in Belize. He holds an MBA from Lancaster University.
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