Youth programmes - Am engine of socio-economic change

Courtesy:-  Nauman Ashraf

Prime Minister Nawaz Shrif presided over the second computerized balloting for grant of 6000 loans to the youth including women, under Prime Minister’s Youth Business loans Scheme on Wednesday. The first balloting held recently also disbursed loans to the same number of men and women. The Youth Business Loan Schemeinitiative differs from the previous failed schemes in many respects. 
It is being implemented through commercial banks who can take care of all aspects of the loans without political interference in line with the policies chalked out by the government. Another aspect is the commitment of the government to ensure utmost transparency in advancing these loans to make sure that the loans are given only to the really deserving individuals. 

The third salient feature of the scheme is the element of gender equality proposed for these loans. These loans will range between five hundred thousand to two million; fair enough for starting a personal business. This would provide excellent opportunities to skilled, qualified and professional youth of both genders to explore and set up avenues of self-employment in a dignified manner and add to the prosperity of their respective families. As is evident the package of the youth programmes is an engine of socio-economic change in the country. 
The Prime Minister had announced the launch of six different schemes in September 2013 namely Small Business Loans Scheme, Micro Interest free Scheme, Youth Training Scheme, Youth Skill Development Scheme, Fee Assistance Scheme and PM Scheme for Lap Tops. Theinterest-free loan scheme for the youth announced on 13thMay will benefit one million individuals costing Rs.3.5 billion to the exchequer. The scheme envisaging disbursement of loans up to Rs.50,000 through Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund will cover the entire countryespecially rural and far flung areas with 50% share going to young women. The Prime Minister during his election campaign had promised to launch schemes for the youth aimed at helping them start their own businesses and building their capacities for self-employment.
The launch of the interest free loan scheme alsorepresents another step towards the fulfillment of the pledge which constitutes a significant initiative to changethe economic situations of the youth besides triggering a process of sustained socio-economic development in the country. The scheme targeted at the poorer andunderprivileged sections of the society is a very humane gesture on the part of the Prime Minister which indicates his concern and sympathy for the down-trodden masses.Similarly Fee Assistance Scheme for students from the far-flung and comparatively less developed areas of the country will also not only facilitate the youth of those areas to pursue higher studies unruffled by the paucity of resources but would also be a tremendous help to their families as well. 
The Youth Skills Development Scheme that envisages to impart technical training to boys and girls who have studied only up to eighth level and on the job training for the graduates with monthly scholarship of Rs.10000 are also prudent policy initiatives. The PM lap top scheme targeting the deserving students with good academic records is also a brilliant idea to encourage them to pursue their studies with more dedication and commitment. 
The status of the youth of a nation as architects of its future progress and prosperity, has an unqualified universal recognition in the modern era and that is why the nations all over the world focus considerable attention on harnessing the potential of their young generations—their human capital---through education and imparting of skills to ensure their productive absorption in the workforce as well as the creation of opportunities for their self-employment to accelerate socio-economic development of the country. In most of the developing and poor countries, lack of education, finances and technological skills are the biggest hindrances in their gainful employment in whatever opportunities are available in the job-market. Thus the growing un-employment among the youth not only affects the economic progress of that country but also unleashes disastrous consequence for the society in the shape of lawlessness and crimes.
The idea of targeting the youth from the less privileged classes gained currency during the early fifties , became a wide spread phenomenon in the eighties and now forms an integral part of any growth model evolved in the third world countries. The strategy adopted was to provide micro-credit to the youth for setting up their own business, small industries, improving their technological skills for enhancing their chances of employability or pursing their higher education. This is regarded as a very vital ingredient of a sustained economic growth. Bangladesh and Nepal in our region who adopted this growth model are far ahead of us at the moment though they were far behind us to start with.
Viewed in the backdrop of the foregoing the package for the youth announced by the PML (N) government, is an imaginative move to tackle un-employment among youth and also enhancing their skills and capability to engage productively in the national effort to change the socio-economic profile of the country.
Though Rs.100 billion allocated for the purpose may look pea-nuts to some in view of the snow-balling unemployment among the youth but it still is a very substantial leap in the right direction. Economic recovery permitting and more resources becoming available with the government, these allocations are surely to be enhanced and the scheme will be made a permanent feature of the national economic strategy, as the Prime Minister has promised. As they say it is the first step in the right direction that really matters. The process becomes self-sustained once it is nudged on to the right path.
The country can move forward only when there are greater employment opportunities in the private sector. Pakistan government at present employs only 7% of the work force and with more and more people joining the labour market, the private sector has to play a wider and more expansive role in this area. Pakistani youth are around 35-40% of the total population and any move that ensures and guarantees their gainful employment is bound to accelerate the process of economic progress due to its multiplier effect besides enhancing tax revenues of the government that this newly initiated economic activity will generate.


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