|Wednesday, 28 July 2004|
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Vital step at ending job hunger
In a major, ground-breaking effort at solving the long-festering problem of graduate unemployment, the Government will be providing employment to 30,000 unemployed graduates over the next three months.
The names of the first 15,000 beneficiaries of this scheme will be published in our newspapers of the Lake House group, beginning tomorrow.
The launching of this scheme is the fulfilment of an election promise by the Government. Besides carrying out its pledge in time, the Government will be targeting 30,000 unemployed graduates - an additional 3,000 jobs, to the initially promised 27,000.
We have it on the authority of Finance Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama that these jobs will be provided on a completely impartial basis, with political favouritism not figuring as one of the yardsticks of job allocation.
He is on record that the aspirants' educational qualifications would be the sole criterion in the assessment of suitability for jobs.
The Government deserves public commendation for this effort at depoliticizing the job allocation scheme. We hope the Government would continue to be guided by these fair and objective criteria.
The Government also deserves our plaudits for keeping its word to the people. This has not been the case with previous governments, in the context of finding jobs for the educated unemployed. There was, for instance, the Job Bank scheme of a bygone UNP government which fell asunder.
The prime cause for its collapse was the steep politicization of the job allocation process. For instance, job aspirants needed to be recommended by his or her MP. This ensured that only political favourites came in for jobs.
As should have been expected, the Job Bank scheme aggravated youth frustrations rather than defuse any. In addition to increasing youth discontent, the scheme left the problem of unemployment untouched.
Therefore, we warmly welcome this effort of providing jobs for our unemployed graduates on a completely objective basis. We also commend the Government for its deeply caring gesture of giving ear to the cry of the frustrated.
To be sure, providing employment on a crash basis is no easy task for a government which has many a pressing worry. It would need to take particular care to find fulfilling job opportunities for a category of our unemployed, who have right along considered themselves - for right or wrong reasons - as somewhat special. The guiding principle is that employment opportunities should be consistent with educational qualifications.
The lessons learnt by the Government in this exercise, we hope, would enable it to wisely restructure the education system of the country to meet our development needs.
This doesn't amount to saying 'no' to a broad-based, liberal education but for balancing within our educational curricular, development imperatives and a Humanities component.
Equitable world trade
Rich countries cannot always have their own way, as seen in Geneva last week. Negotiators bowed to pressure and began revising plans for farm trade reform, the centrepiece of a global trade pact, after a blueprint was heavily criticised by developing nations and even by some developed ones.
Developing states say the plan "needs important changes and improvements". They say the initial draft had been weighted heavily in favour of the richer nations. Developing nations fear the farm plan would not force big cuts in rich state farm subsidies which distort world trade.
The international community should review the Cancun trade talks debacle and exchange ideas on pushing multilateral trade without harming interests of developing countries.
A compromise should be arrived on agricultural subsidies and trade barriers in the United States, Europe and Japan that prevent developing countries from trading out of poverty.
African and Asian farmers complain that their products are priced out of US and Europe by the US$ 350 billion worth of subsidies lavished on the rich world's farmers. Subsidies in the developed world cost developing countries an estimated $320 billion a year in lost trade.
Indeed, developed countries will be able to actually reduce their foreign aid components if they actively engage in barrier-free trade with the Third World. The global development aid budget is US$ 57 billion a year, but developing countries will be able to able to earn much more from trade if the First World minimises subsidies.
Developing countries are also criticising what they see as too much freedom for richer states to keep tariff barriers at high levels for products they consider politically sensitive.
Protectionism has been the bane of world trade, especially from the point of view of developing nations. It harms agriculture and industries of poor countries, whose products face high tariffs in the developed world.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is racing to finalise a pact to put to a meeting of the Executive General Council, starting today. Its aim is to lay down the parameters for liberalising commerce in farm and industrial goods, under the WTO's Doha Round of free trade negotiations.
Failure to meet the end-July deadline could plunge the round into a deep crisis. The Doha Round, whose successful conclusion could give a big boost to the world economy, has been in trouble almost from its launch in Qatar in 2001.
Developing countries have always stressed that WTO talks could be nudged back on track if developed countries change their stance on trade-distorting subsidies. Developmental concerns of the poorer countries must be taken into account in any global trading regime.
Produced by Lake House