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 nations all over the world focus considerable attention on harnessing the potential of their young generations—.

In most of the developing and poor countries, lack of education and technological skills are the biggest hindrances in their gainful employment in whatever opportunities are available in the job-market. Thus the growing unemployment 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 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.

In Pakistan also, a number of schemes on similar lines were introduced at different times by the representative governments, but they failed to achieve their desired objectives because the money allocated for the purpose invariably was distributed among the political workers of the ruling party and billions of rupees were never returned to the government agencies entrusted with the responsibility to advance these loans. I am privy to an embezzlement of Rs.8 billion in the former Small Business Finance Corporation.

Viewed in the backdrop the package for the youth announced by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a commendable initiative to tackle unemployment 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. It is wholesome in its desired impact on different sections of the society. Though Rs.20 billion allocated for the purpose may look peanuts to some in view of the snow-balling unemployment among the youth but it still is a very substantial leap in the right direction. With economic recovery 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 multiple effects besides enhancing tax revenues of the government that this newly generated economic activity will generate.

The present initiative of the Prime Minister 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 after deliberating on the suggestions sought from the public. Another aspect is the commitment of the government to ensure utmost transparency in advancing of 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, specially under Small Business Scheme. 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 women to explore and set up avenues of self-employment in a dignified manner and add to the prosperity of their respective families.

The proposed interest free loans targeted at the poorer and underprivileged sections of the society that will initially benefit two hundred and fifty people is a very humane gesture on the part of the Prime Minister which indicates his concern and sympathy for the down-trodden. Paying fees of 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 their studies unruffled by the paucity of resources but would also be a tremendous help to their families as well. Similarly the Youth Skills Development Schemes that envisage 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 very imaginative and prudent policy initiatives. As is evident the package is a right recipe for nudging socio-economic development in the country   

The writer is a freelance columnist.