Developmental economists and researchers in the North raised concerns about the reality of the situation with regard to youth unemployment within the Northern Province which was grimmer than reality.
Whilst highlighting that unemployment was a problem faced by the youth in the North, Founder of and Principal Researcher at the Point Pedro Institute of Development, development economist Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan said that actual youth unemployment, the real situation, was much higher than the official statistics had revealed.
He cited an education system that was lagging far behind the aspirations of the youths, hyper dependence on public sector employment and overdependence on foreign remittances, the latter which discouraged gainful employment, as several of the most pressing economic issues faced by the Northerners including Northern youths.
However, President of the Jaffna Bar Association, President’s Counsel Shantha Abhimanasingham said that only 20% of the households in the areas received foreign remittances.
On the question of ex-cadres, he noted that they were victims of governmental, administrative and public apathy, and therefore called for former combatants, especially female combatants, to be provided with a basic income and be given livelihood related skills training.
He also blamed the risk averse nature of the general populous including the youth, the lack of a work ethic and industriousness coupled with a general lack of entrepreneurship as other factors which adversely affected all in the areas. “Remittances from the Diaspora are a significant source of income for the households in the Northern Province, especially in the Jaffna District. While remittances make a positive contribution to the livelihoods of many people in the Province, overdependence fuels conspicuous consumption thus leading to the moving away from the traditional thrifty way of life, further fuels unproductive investments in places of worship, wasteful expenditure, and personal debt burden. In the case of the latter, such is mainly fuelled by conspicuous consumption and the ‘demonstration effect’ (attempts to imitate the lifestyle of friends, and relatives overseas),” he explained.
He also pointed out the requirement to conduct a caste based census in the North and the East with the view of eventually bringing in affirmative action and policies to address the real and perceived grievances of those from the dispossessed castes.
Further highlighting issues such as administrative apartheid, Dr. Sarvananthan explained that it was imperative that constitutional reforms include legal provisions to enforce equal opportunities.
Of the interventions made by the political authorities at the Governmental, Provincial and Local Government level, he criticized the performance of the Northern politicos as “abysmal and extremely disappointing,” while describing the Government’s efforts and measures taken to address the aforementioned concerns, as lukewarm at times and taking place at a snail’s pace.