Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday launched six schemes aimed at the youth and the underprivileged, including interest-free micro loans and free laptops, with an initial allocation of Rs 20 billion.
Addressing the nation on radio and television, Sharif said these programmes are aimed at creating self-employment opportunities for the youth and will fulfil promises made in the election manifesto of his PML-N party.
Sharif's second address to the nation after assuming power was focussed on the youth, who form a large section of Pakistani society and are a major vote bank.
The historic May 11 general election that swept the PML-N to power and marked Pakistan's first democratic transition saw millions of youths participating in polls for the first time.
Sharif said the interest-free micro loan scheme is targeted at disadvantaged sections of society and will benefit 250,000 people. An allocation of Rs 3.5 billion has been made for it for the current fiscal.
He said Rs 4 billion has been earmarked for the Prime Minister's scheme for provision of laptops. Under the scheme, 100,000 students will be provided laptops this year.
Another scheme that Sharif announced was the "Small Business Loan Scheme", designed for the unemployed, especially educated youth, to enable them to start their own businesses.
Under the scheme, loans ranging from Rs 500,000 to Rs 2 million will be given to jobless but educated youth at a concessional interest rate of eight per cent.
The remaining burden of the mark-up will be borne by the government, Sharif said. He stressed that 50 per cent of loans will be given to women by the National Bank of Pakistan and First Women Bank. Rs 5 billion has been allocated for the scheme.
Sharif also unveiled the "Youth Training Scheme" under which those completing 16-year degree education from recognised institutions will be given training to help them secure jobs at home or abroad.
For this, a scholarship of Rs 10,000 a month will be given for one year and 50,000 graduates will benefit from the scheme.
Sharif also announced the "The Youth Skill Development Scheme" for boys and girls who have passed Class 8. They will be trained for six months in different trades and given a scholarship of Rs 5,000 a month.
He further announced a scheme for sponsoring the fees of students from backward areas so that they are not deprived of their right to education. The government will pay an average Rs 40,000 as annual fees on behalf of 30,000 students.
Sharif said his cabinet has already approved the basic structure of these schemes and arrangements have been completed for their implementation. He invited suggestions from the people to make these schemes more transparent.
He rued the fact that the government was pumping in Rs 500 billion every year into the "black hole of institutional losses" and mentioned the Pakistan International Airlines, Pakistan Steel Mills and the railways as examples.
One of the main reasons for losses was over-staffing and appointments in these institutions were made on the basis of "nepotism and political recommendations", he said.