Those are the words used by Brent Wilton to describe the clear and present danger looming over Antigua & Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean region, and other developing nations around the world.
For the information of those who may be unaware of who the outspoken Brent Wilton is, he holds the position of Secretary-General of the International Organization of Employers, the IOE. Based in Geneva, the IOE is a sort of employers’ counterpart to the better known ILO, or International Labor Organization.
Mr Wilton made his remarks this past Monday, during the opening ceremony of CAMEO IV – the Fourth Caribbean Academy for the Management of Employers’ Organizations. CAMEO IV brought together employers’ federations from across the Caribbean. The theme of the three-day consultation was “Analyzing and Shaping the Business Environment to Influence Policy Development.”
Brent Wilton had telling comments to make on the issue of youth unemployment. His remarks conveyed a stark warning to Caribbean peoples and their governments. Yours Truly can only hope that Mr Wilton will be successful in bringing home to our region’s political leaders the danger facing our weak societies. Inaction at this time will guarantee the disintegration of our fragmented regional economy. Continued complacency in the face of a critical social issue will spell the death of the dream of forging a Caribbean nation.
Late last week and over the weekend, Yours Truly presented a three-part series of articles entitled “Mopping … Mopping …” The articles attempted to highlight the illogical and self-destructive attitude of our complacent political and social leaders, who continue to engage in the “suppression” of crime without regard to the true source of the problem.
In particular, the third article in the series chastised our communities’ establishment cadres, who continue to stoke the fires of social dissolution. Social and political leaders promote crime by encouraging continued uncontrolled population growth in an environment where our weak economies are patently unable to provide work – never mind “meaningful employment” – for the multitudes of poor young people we produce.
Blinkered authoritarian leaders are failing our societies by following a policy anchored in blind futility. They continue their hopeless attempt to “stamp out” crime by applying increasingly oppressive measures at the wrong end of the problem. Like the hapless naval ensign in Jerry Lewis’ comedy film “Don’t Give Up The Ship”, the insane establishment continues to mop … and mop … and mop … while the mounting waves of violent crime crash over the side of our foundering ship of state. As Vincent “Tubby” Derrick has warned in another context, as we continue to do what we have always done, we are continuing to get what we have always gotten – and worse.
Now, like a voice crying in the wilderness, comes IOE Secretary-General Brent Wilton. “Youth unemployment rates are disastrous,” says Wilton. “They are catastrophic in some societies with a consequence that will not be seen for many years to come but when we do experience it, it will not be good for us or our communities.” Wilton continues, “We have a responsibility as business representatives to be doing all we can to address those challenges now and go to governments with the answers that are required.”
Describing the youth unemployment problem as “a ticking time bomb”, Mr Wilton warns that if nothing is done, an underclass will develop in society – with serious social consequences. Mr Wilton goes wrong, in my own view, when he regards the “ticking time bomb” as a problem whose most serious effects will be felt by Antigua & Barbuda and other regional countries in years to come. Yours Truly would wish to convince complacent political and social leaders that the future is now.
For years, Antigua & Barbuda and other CARICOM countries have boasted our own rebellious underclass, whose frustration and anger is now expressing itself in mounting violent crime – particularly gun crime. The waves of violent crime are already outstripping the resources of law-enforcement agencies, and are imprisoning beleaguered citizens inside their homes – to the detriment of economic activity.
Yours Truly finds it most significant that the call to “turn off the tap” is coming from the people whose business it is to create the jobs that our desperate young people cannot find. The floods of youthful job seekers are outstripping the ability of our weak regional economies to satisfy the demand for employment. It will take action at a national level to rectify the socioeconomic imbalances that are driving the ticking time bomb.
Time is running out. We can all hear the time bomb ticking away the minutes remaining before the explosion … or maybe the explosion is now.