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Gaza's frail economy weighs heavily on youth-led development
Gaza's frail economy weighs heavily on youth-led development
Gaza youth in a graduation ceremony
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"International aid aimed at the Gaza Strip is far from directed towards a long-term economic development in which youth have active roles"

Youth in any society are looked at as the enforcer for change and development, and the backbone to economic prosperity. However, the political and economic situation in the Gaza Strip inhibit significant, youth-propelled development.

Young Population

According to UN estimates, about 65 percent of Gaza’s 1.7 million people are under 25. Absence of this should-be-effectively-functioning youth force particularly harms community development in Gaza.

Unemployment, a global disease crippling the nations' human powers, seems to eat away Gaza young generation's capacities. Sharek Youth Forum report for 2013 indicates that more than one third of Palestinian youth are unemployed, with the highest unemployment rate among young people with higher education.

Lost Oppotunities

"Most of the projects carried out by the UNDP in Gaza are directed towards supporting the economic situation by creating job opportunities," said Dania Darwish, communication officer for the Program in the Palestinian territories.

While the most recent OCHA report indicates that "the seven-year-long blockade on the coastal enclave led nearly 70 percent of industrial establishments in Gaza to close, while 120,000 private sector jobs were lost in the first two years of closure,"

On the role of Gaza youth in community development, youth activist Mohamed Hasna said youth does not have an integral role; huge capacities have been long disabled to bring about a real nationwide development,"

"Lack of free movement in and out of Gaza through border crossings prevent many of young Palestinians to enroll in graduate studies or participate in professional training to acquire new expertise," he added.

Temporary Jobs

Ibrahim Banat, an electrical engineer working as a trainer of electricity basics for government vocational school, said "life is hard here; the $350 I am paid can do nothing for someone to get married and start a family,"

Asked whether the youth sector in Gaza could thrive the frail economy, Ibrahim didn’t think so "neither the financial nor the natural resources available qualify the Gaza youth to push economic development,"

Ibrahim pointing to the government's employment policy, he said "it should expand its job creation projects so that one not only could work for a few months, but to last longer so the he\she could build his own work experience,"

Moreover, he thinks the government has to support youth to start their own businesses, "everyone knows that the government here operates under Israeli blockade and can barely pay its employees, but there should be plans to encourage small businesses through cutting taxes, and sponsoring entrepreneurs by paying the rents for their projects,"

Far-fetched Economic Recovery

Even United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has its work focused on aiding the economy and assisting those affected by wars launched against the Gaza Strip rather than moving development forward. Following the November 2012 Israeli offensive, a UNDP-supervised household survey found that Gaza’s economy will require significant aid and will take years to fully recover.

A combination of unemployment, closures, and restrictions has further compounded the problem for Gaza youth who fall at the heart of the economic crisis. With unemployment in Gaza reaching alarmingly high levels, the last incursion further paralyzed economic development, destroying much of the remaining productive resources, capital stock, and employment opportunities.

Involving Youth in Governance

Alray asked Director General of the government media office in Gaza Salamah Marouf about the government activity regarding Gaza youth as a main category in the Gaza society, he said "no government in the world can squarely meet youth aspirations like having a better-paid job, and a happy married life; what for a besieged government!"

"Initiatives to involve Palestinian youth in political life have been impeded due to internal division," said Mahmoud Baroud, Director General of Youth Department at the Ministry of Youth in Gaza.

"Youth law had been passed in late 2011 stipulating the formation Youth parliament with its speaker acting as the Prime Minister's advisor. Given the political division among Palestinians, we couldn't achieve this move,"

"As an alternative to the parliament intended, two week ago, we met with the youth societies and activists based in the five Gaza governorates and decided to launch the Youth Advisory Council as a body linking youth to the Palestinian government," he revealed.