Young, wild and unemployed

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This is not about throwing him a pity party. Nor is it about a chap we interviewed this week, a lawyer who has been out of work since he qualified, and who has been selling vegetables to make ends meet*. It is rather about everyone else in his situation.

Articulate and confident, an LLB in hand, followed by an LLM with honours from a foreign university, and about 60 job applications later, a despondent Muhammad Waakid Allybocus just does not know where to go from here. To his parents, he is a victim of a system that has let the youth down; to society, he is a waste of human talent. To the country, he is a ticking time bomb. And he is not the only one.

Since I spoke to Muhammad, I have met a dozen other youngsters in his situation. Some have studied law, some dentistry, some business administration and they all share the same long hours of waiting day in and day out for the miracle to happen: a phone call or a letter inviting them to interview for a job – any job.

While Muhammad – and a few others in his situation – is selling vegetables and wondering when he’ll ever be able to have a job commensurate with his qualifications and draw a salary (Rs15,000 is all he is asking for) to be able to gradually pay back the loan his parents took for his studies, every time he opens the newspapers or tunes into the puppet show we are treated to every Tuesday, he hears of the astronomical sums some of his compatriots are drawing and the number of jobs they are accumulating. Some of these jobs have never been advertised but even if they were, we all know it’s a charade. Some of the lucky ones chosen to fill those positions all managed to leapfrog everyone else in the job queue. As a bonus, some were also appointed on various boards to make sure they end up with a handsome package at the end of the month.

The authorities, discredited beyond hope of resurrection, have been consistently defending the blue-eyed boys’ right to draw such astounding salaries. Some have gone to the extent of publicly stating that, apart from their relatives, no one else is competent enough! They have, on the other hand, showed precious little concern for the right of other youth who are not as lucky as their cronies to have a decent job.

The government was quick to destroy the BAI and with it thousands of viable jobs and savings which could have been used to create many more. This week in parliament, both the prime minister and the former minister of good governance agreed that the result of the closing down of the conglomerate is “a mess” – a real admission of guilt. They compounded that by ‘selling off’ our offshore sector. As they are still basking in the aftermath of the money received, they still cannot admit that the end of the DTAA sounded the death knell on thousands of other jobs which have already started flaking away, putting an end to the hopes of Muhammad and others like him. By 2019, when the last clause of the treaty comes to an end, we will wake up to an even harsher reality.

The authorities are burying their heads in the sand. Enjoying the manna from heaven being showered on them and those around them and completely oblivious to the plight of anyone who is not related to them, they cannot see that we are hurtling towards disaster. The various hunger strikes springing up across the country and the negative emotions rippling through social media are merely a symptom of a deeply-seated mix of helplessness, anger, gloom, frustration and despondency.  Serious problems have been simmering away and precious little is being done to resolve them. When they boil over, it will be too late. And though we are known as Lepep Admirab, Tunisia is closer than you’d be comforted to know!

*Read the interview in this week’s Weekly.

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