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The earn and learn saga

The controversy surrounding the infamous Earn and Learn programme in Japan needs a closure.

Even though the programme may have benefitted more Bhutanese youth, the flurry of corruption and exploitation it has spewed over the past months has left the initiative with little creditability.  The indecisiveness from policy makers to resolve the issue has not helped either.

The programme was initiated by the last government, studied by the interim government, investigated by the anti-corruption commission and inherited by the new government. While the office of the attorney general is taking its time to review the investigation findings for probable prosecution, the government announced to defer the loan repayment for youth in Japan and planned a visit to Japan.  It later announced that loan deferment was not possible without the clients signing the bank papers in person and deferred the visit to Japan.

Following reports of youth in Japan contracting tuberculosis and an alleged suicide case, the programme has led to the formation of a committee by the parents of youth in Japan. Representatives of the committee have met all agencies, filed a case against the agent and are reportedly in Japan to study the issue.

While the social media remains inundated with complaints of inaction, the opposition issued a press release demanding action on this saga. It says it is surprised that the government has not done anything to resolve the problem.  The opposition has not suggested what the government could do. It rarely does.  For the national council, this may be yet another political issue that it wants to stay away from.

Our policymakers should look beyond politics while making decisions. The country is grappling with unemployment, a national issue that needs collective action. The Earn and Learn programme in Japan and the problems we are seeing today is a consequence of unemployment. The people have not seen much being done about this problem and when initiatives, well meant, are at all taken, their weak implementation only tend to create more problems.

So what we are seeing is the politicisation of youth, their issues such as unemployment and education, not so much to address the issues confronting the youth but to garner votes.

It is now time for governance and taking firm decisions, even if it is not be popular. The government of the day is in the best position to get things done, if it wants to. Its handling of the Japan programme would indicate the government’s resolve in addressing unemployment problems. If this programme is good and helping our youth, then all should come together to make it work.

But the government cannot take months to implement one decision and ask for more time. The opposition could be more constructive than being another surprised complainant in the crowd. And the national council should stop being a mere spectator.

The people deserve better from our elected representatives.

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