In Tuesday’s sitting of the National Assembly, Prime Minister Timothy Harris revealed that the youth empowerment program that started in December 2012 and has provided many of the unemployed with jobs has come with cost of some $196 million.
Prime Minister Harris said, “I repeat, to date we have spent, that is the government and SIDF, $196,203,733.88. The operation of PEP has cost the country to date near 200 million dollars.” said PM Harris
Harris said the spending of this amount of money begs to question the value obtained for money expended.
He said, “We want to reorganize, restructure and reposition the PEP program into a genuine Skills Training and Empowerment Program (STEP). STEP will be a major advancement, a step up on PEP, if you will, in terms of its philosophical underpinnings the objectives, deliverables and the cost to the country.”
STEP is designed to be a short term program that will provide the participants with adequate knowledge and training needed that could see them being employed when completed.
One of the areas of focus that citizens would receive training in will be the tourism and hospitality sector, which is the country’s main industry. This will prepare them for the jobs to be created in the near future.
The prime minister stated, “In a next two years, our tourism and hospitality sector would need over 1000 workers. We could see a STEP Programme preparing the unemployed and other interested persons, so that when these facilities are opened, they open with Kittitians and Nevisians prepared and ready to serve at all levels of the industry… People properly oriented and prepared for that service.”
In their campaign leading up to the February 2015 general elections, Team Unity had promised to revisit PEP, stating the following, among others, as flaws: that individuals were not showing up for work or working for shorter hours than others and were still getting paid, people not really getting proper training and qualifications, and that some people have been on the program for years.
In the view of Dr. Harris, “The STEP Programme, which we are fashioning, is going to help us expose prospective employees to the kind of training that allows them to go to the next step upwards.”