Malik M Ashraf
Being mindful of the role of the youth in the development of the country, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif launched six different schemes in September 2013 namely Youth Business Loans Scheme, Micro Interest free Loan Scheme, Youth Training Scheme, Youth Skill Development Programme, Scheme for provision of Lap-Tops and Reimbursement of Fee to students from less developed areas. These schemes were designed to tackle un-employment among youth and also enhancing their skills and capability to engage productively in national effort to change the socio-economic profile of country.
Under the Youth Business Loan Scheme, the PML (N) government committed to provide loans up to Rs.5 million to the youth ensuring gender equality. The scheme differed from the previous failed schemes in many respects. Its implementation was entrusted to National Bank and First Women Bank, who could take care of all aspects of loans without political interference in line with the policies chalked out by government, based purely on commercial considerations. Later most private banks including Sindh Bank, HBL, MCB and Habib Metropolitan Bank, Soneri bank etc also joined the scheme.
The interest free loan scheme envisaged giving loans of up to Rs.50,000 to individuals belonging to the poorer and underprivileged sections of society. Paying fees of students from far-flung and comparatively less developed areas of the country was meant to facilitate the youth of those areas to pursue their studies unruffled by the paucity of resources, Youth Skills Development Schemes envisaged 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.12000. The lap top scheme targeting the deserving students with good academic records was also a brilliant idea to encourage them to pursue their studies with more dedication and commitment.
All these schemes have been vigorously pursued by the concerned agencies ever since their initiation in September 2013. An incisive inquiry regarding their implementation reveals that under the Youth Business Loan Scheme loans amounting to Rs.2512.693 million have so far been disbursed among 17861 individuals .To avoid delays in the processing of loans, balloting has been replaced by the existing loan processing procedures. Under the fee reimbursement scheme the HEC has reimbursed fees to 152798 the poor students up to March 2017 since its inception in 2013.The number of new students registered for the scheme stands at 28592. An amount of Rs 634,983,533 has been released to different universities for the year 2016-17
Through the interest free loan scheme Rs.6110 million have been given to 272,092 individuals. The number of lap tops distributed among students is 188188. Reportedly another consignment of 89,499 lap-tops has been delivered to different universities for distribution among the students. The Scheme is not being executed in isolation; it is supplemented by other initiatives like Smart University project; wherein all universities have availability of WiFi throughout the Campus; Smart Class project wherein students can attend &study virtually , and have access to all the information being taught at classroom; Smart Assessment project, Education TV; HEC Cloud data center, etc.
According to the official sources under the Youth Skill Development Programme 24934 students graduated in the first phase, 20392 in the second phase and in the third phase 23880 have already completed their training courses while 25252 are still under training. The govt has made available an amount of Rs.4608 million for the three phases. Similarly under Youth Training Scheme 49637 have been provided internship with different govt departments and entities. This scheme is for master degree and associate diploma holders who are paid a stipend of Rs.12,000 during their one year internship.
As is evident all the foregoing initiatives launched by the government have been pursued with uncompromising commitment and the progress on them so far has been indeed very encouraging. The youth are the future of the country. Engaging them in productive pursuits and self-employment avenues is the best insurance against poverty. and an irrefutable guarantee for economic prosperity. The country can move forward only when there are greater employment opportunities in the private sector. 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.
— The writer is freelance columnist based in Islamabad.