ISLAMABAD - Announcing a Rs20 billion youth assistance and development programme, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that it is time to make the youth of this country self-reliant through affordable education, soft loans and skill-based training.

The programme comprises six schemes: 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.

In his televised address to the nation Saturday night, Premier Sharif said, “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.”

The prime minister announced that the youth of all the four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan could benefit from these development programmes. PM Nawaz urged the general public to send their written proposals on these schemes over 10 days.

About ‘Micro Interest Free Loans’, the PM said it is especially focussed upon the financially weak segments of society. Under it, a total of Rs3.5 billion would be earmarked this financial year which would benefit about 250,000 people.

He also announced Small Business Loan Scheme for the educated youth willing to start their own businesses. Skilled individuals would get loans worth Rs0.5 to Rs2 million each to help start their work in agriculture sector or set up a workshop, and 50 percent loans under this Rs5 billion scheme would be specified for the women. “The markup rate on this loan would be 8 percent as the remaining markup amount would be borne by the government.

The third initiative, he said was Youth Training Scheme under which the youth having completed 16-year education would be provided training so they may find suitable jobs. The prime minister said during the on-job training, the youth will be paid Rs10,000 stipend per month for one year. He said this Rs4 billion scheme would benefit around 50,000 graduates.

Under the Youth Skill Development Scheme, he said, youngsters would be trained to help them earn their livelihood. The youth aged up to 25 years and with education up to eighth grade would be entitled to avail this facility under this Rs800 million scheme. “These youths will be trained for six months and will be paid Rs5,000 a month as stipend. However, the fee of the training institutes will be borne by the government,” he said.

The fifth scheme is for providing assistance to youth of underdeveloped areas for their tuition fees. The PM said government would pay for the tuition fees of all deserving students at masters level and above. For this purpose, Rs1.2 billion has been allocated which would cover the expenses of some 30,000 students with an average of Rs40,000 yearly.

Under the Prime Minister’s Scheme for Provision of Laptops, one million students would be given laptops with an amount of Rs4 billion. The scheme, which was first introduced in Punjab, had been extended to the whole country in view of the importance of information technology.

“The main idea behind the programme is to increase the self-dependency of the youth and provide them job opportunities. Globally the job opportunities in government sector have been shrinking continuously and in Pakistan too these opportunities are on the wane when seen in the perspective of the fast growing population,” he said.

Making a case for privatisation of sick national entities, the prime minister lamented that they were eating up Rs500 billion each year. The money being wasted here should be spent on public welfare instead, he said.

He said that one of the reasons for malfunctioning of the government run institutes was the unnecessary inductions done on the political basis. The examples of PIA, Pakistan Steel Mills and Pakistan Railways were before the nation, he added. The PM said in presence of a strong private sector, the people especially the youth would get better job opportunities.

Economy of Pakistan should be strengthened in such a way that it did not require loan or foreign aid. He said his government has a strong will and they were confident that Pakistan would soon overcome the problems. He said these were the promises PML-N made during election campaign and it wanted a system in which youth could earn by itself and help others.