ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistan's Prime Minister on Saturday announced a financial assistance package to empower youth and create employment opportunities in a nation struggling to find enough jobs for its swelling ranks of youngsters.
In a nationwide televised address, Nawaz Sharif announced six programs to help talented students and unemployed youngsters.
Pakistan has a large and growing population of under-30s, many of whom have difficulty finding work but were attracted to Sharif's pre-election promises that he would create new opportunities for them.
The schemes will offer interest free micro loans, small business loans, youth training, skill development, payment of fees for underprivileged students and laptop computers for talented students.
Sharif said around 18 billion rupees ($168m) has been allocated for these schemes which are to be offered all over the country.
The government has allocated three billion rupees to provide interest free loans to 250,000 people through a micro financing scheme while another five billion rupees will be earmarked for educated youths to start up their own businesses.
Under the training scheme, young people with 16 years of education will be provided on-the-job training and will receive a monthly stipend of ten thousand rupees for a period of six months.
Sharif said a total of 50,000 graduates will benefit from this program worth four billion rupees.
Sharif also announced training for unemployed boys and girls up to 25 years of age, who will be given a monthly stipend worth 3-5,000 rupees, for a period of six months.
Through another scheme, the government will pay fees for students of underdeveloped and underprivileged families who are unable to pay for higher education.
The government has offered 1.2 billion rupees for this program to help poor students at masters level education.
Sharif's centre-right Pakistan Muslim League pioneered a laptop computer scheme for talented youth in the Punjab province, and he announced the scheme would now be rolled out nationwide.
"A hundred thousand students will be provided laptops in accordance with the programme. An amount of four billion rupees has been allocated for the PM Laptop scheme," Sharif said.
The laptop scheme, initiated by Sharif's younger brother Shahbaz Sharif, during his previous tenure as the chief minister of the largest province Punjab, was popular among young voters and was one of the programs which helped them to a landslide victory in May 11 elections.
"Today we are beginning a journey for the fulfilment of promises, this is the first step in a long journey. With the passage of time, these steps will not only be enhanced but we will allocate more and more resources towards their fulfilment," Sharif said while referring to promises he made during the election campaign.
Previously, Sharif earned huge support for his party by launching mega development projects such as motorways, transport and laptop schemes but now faces tough challenges of a sluggish economy, coupled with an energy and law and order crisis.