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Iranís youth, hopeful or hopeless?

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2005 12:51 pm    Post subject: Iranís youth, hopeful or hopeless? Reply with quote

This is the reason the Mad Dog Iranian President is barking at the world! He can't solve these problems and hence wants to start a war covering all the tracks leading to the $680 Billion Dollars they have stolen and given some to their masters at Whitehall! Shame on them! Watch & see as war will start in order to cover-up all the monies stolen from our innocent people!

Iranís youth, hopeful or hopeless?

Khaleej Times Online
17 December 2005

OFTEN the solution to a problem lies in converting the problem into a solution. Such an opportunity exists with Iranís youth, who make up 65% of its population. This could well be the ticking bomb that Iran fears for itself even as the rest of the world fears its alleged plans for the nuclear bomb.

But, just as the nuclear issue both reflects a crisis that could blow out of proportion and offers a glimmer of hope for Iran to return to the mainstream international scenario, the same could be true of Iranís youth becoming the source of Iranís boom or bust in the years to come.

When Iranian policy-makers decided to lower the voting age to 16 in the elections soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution, they did not foresee that in two decades nearly two-thirds of the population would be youth. Given their role in the 1979 revolution and again in bringing Mohammed Khatami to power in the 1997 presidential elections, it is that constituency which requires utmost care to ensure political and social stability, as well as economic prosperity. Yet, it is this same section of the population that is most disgruntled, anxious and disillusioned in the face of an uncertain future.

Many suggest that the results of the June presidential elections were disastrous to the hopes of the youth. But Mahmoud Ahmadinejadís victory, by a record margin of over seven million votes, could also be interpreted as a triumph for the youth because about 35% of the 46.7 million eligible voters belonged to the 15-30 age groups. It appears that they were unimpressed by all other rhetoric except the promise to tackle poverty and unemployment.

Currently, overall unemployment in Iran is about 16% , while unemployed women account for a staggering 21.2 % Of the 30 % unemployed in the 15-30 age group, 34% are in the 15-19 and 16% in 25-29 years categories. A report commissioned by the Management and Planning Organization and the Iran Youth Organization at the end of 2004 predicted that if the annual unemployment rate holds up, the jobless rate among the youth will reach 52 % within two years.

Currently, local universities churn out over 300,000 graduates a year and 800,000 youth enter the job market annually. While most of the jobless population is classified as unskilled labor with a high school education or lower, unemployment is also high among graduates, with nearly 10,000 doctors reportedly unemployed currently. With only about 300,000 new jobs being created each year, the new government will have to nearly triple job opportunities to meet this staggering number.

In recent years, young Iranian graduates have been immigrating to developed countries in droves. According to the International Monetary Fund and UNESCO reports, Iran is first in emigration among 91 developing and developed countries, with more than 150,000 Iranians emigrating annually. Worse still, over 80 % of Iranians studying in foreign universities donít return. Statistics also suggest that 120 out of 240 young Iranian intellectuals who were awarded prizes at scientific competitions in recent times have emigrated. This brain drain can be stemmed and relatively reversed only when the economy looks up.

The task related to meeting the needs of the youth is difficult, especially when they are disenchanted with the reformistsí inability to deliver on the promises over the last eight years. But no one knows better than the conservatives that if the discontent youth took to the streets en masse, they could undo any regime. In trying to improve the plight of the youth and the country, the Iranian leadership could take a cue from China; ease social and economic restrictions while strengthening itself politically.

The other demanding problems of Iranian society linked to the youth are combating nepotism and corruption, controlling inflation and combating drug addiction among over three million people. Economists suggest that answers to many of these ills lie in a growth rate of more than six % per year. But, thatís where the problem also lies. Iranís with about 131 billion barrels as proven reserves, the worldís second largest after Saudi Arabia will find it hard to diversify its economy, in which oil forms 85% of the exports. Further, its manufacturing sector is weak, with most raw materials and finished goods being imported.

With Iranís GDP only one-quarter of what it was in 1979 and with required investment estimated at over $120 billion in terms of job creation for the youth, the new populist conservative government could view this section of the population as the most effective point to cut from the past and rebuild the nation. Perhaps, it is the realization of their make-or-break potential that has led the new administration to make a beginning by launching an ambitious social spending program to quell discontent and create an environment of optimism; a $ 1.3-billion ďlove fundĒ targeting millions of low-income young couples currently unable to marry.

Given the imperfect past and tense present of the countryís youth, Ahmadinejadís election emphasis on redistribution of wealth could hold the best hope for a perfect future. The popularity surge from a reported seven % in the pre-electoral stage to a stunning 62 % at the finishing line could have well been a result of his motto ďItís possible and we can do itĒ. More importantly, even a marginal success of his promise to fight corruption could be the best stimulant to revitalize the youth and the countryís growth prospects. Till then, the bomb ticks...

Dr N. Janardhan is the Editor of the Gulf in the Media at the Gulf Research Centre, Dubai
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