The youth factor


Beyond government’s recently announced youth development projects

The incumbent government has already taken some bold initiatives in economic and financial sector, but going a step further it is now jumping into a totally different ballgame: social uplift. For this it has just announced some schemes, six to be precise, to help the youth of the country, mainly through affordable education, soft loans and skill-based training. As good and well-intentioned as the project sounds, it is in the implementation of the project that the government has to be careful, for even a good project, if not executed and managed properly, could go down the drain.

The government has announced a package of Rs20bn for the six projects that include Micro Interest Free Loans Scheme, Small Business Loans Scheme, Youth Training Scheme, Youth Skill Development Scheme, Fee Assistance Scheme and PM’s Scheme for Laptops Provision. While it might be too soon to criticise the project itself, one can surely point out to the pitfalls that may tank the project or at least cripple it. Other than how it is executed and managed, there are two other things that need to be addressed before the project is undertaken: one, the motive behind the project; two, the objective of the project. The former one has been explained by the prime minister in his statement that the scheme is ‘aimed at providing them [the youth] assistance mainly through affordable education, soft loans and skill-based training’, while the latter one can be explained by his another statement: “I am sure that a self-reliant and prosperous youth will prove as a vanguard in the nation’s journey towards national integrity, prosperity and sovereignty”. That is all well and good; however, is it possible that with youth being over 49.76 million or 58 percent of total voters aged 40 years or younger, the PML-N government has decided to pit itself against Imran Khan’s PTI in wooing the youth, from a political perspective to use them as a card in future? If that indeed is the case, the PML-N would lose in the long run. After all, politics is all about higher goals but politicians are mostly not, they are mostly petty, vindictive and self-centred.

Our youth is frustrated by a lack of job openings and higher unemployment rates. Most of them still lack technical training to join industries productively. Higher education is out of reach of many on account of being costly and the banking system virtually guarantees that they have no chance of getting loans to start their own businesses. Though the new scheme may offer them some breathing room, the funds allocated for it aren’t enough to make a visible difference. And if the funds are allocated and distributed in the conventional method of patronage, then the project won’t achieve any of its objectives. These loans must be given fairly on merit by removing all political and bureaucratic patronage from the process if the government is serious in making the project something.