Tapping youth potential vital for national development

PESHAWAR:Notwithstanding the country’s economic and agricultural resources, Pakistan’s population was growing at a rapid pace, thus depleting the job opportunities in government, private, agriculture and industrial sectors.

Being the second most populous country after Indonesia in Muslim world and fifth in the globe, Pakistan’s population had swelled to a record 207.68 million with a highest 2.4pc growth rate from 1998 to 2017 including 106.3 million male and 101.3 million females besides 64 percent youth, exerting enormous pressures on the country’s socioeconomic and agriculture resources.

According to the 2017 National Population Census, 40.3percent of the country’s population comprised young population aging from 15 to 29 years while only 3.7 percent were 65 years old and above. The experts predicted that the youth population was likely to double in 2050 for which thousands of employment opportunities would be required in the government and private sectors.

“Unemployment mainly caused by shabby economy, population bulge, energy crisis and flawed education system in Pakistan was likely to reach 8.50 percent by next year if population grows at the same pace and pragmatic measures were not taken for economic and industrial revitalization,” said Professor Dr

Muhammad Naeem Khan of Swabi University while talking to reporter.

Dr Naeem while citing a report of an international trading economics model said that the unemployment rate in the country remained 4.35pc in 2021 against 4.30pc in 2020, showing 0.05 pc increase. Alike, the unemployment rate is estimated to reach 6.20 percent in 2022, 6.40 percent in 2023 and 8.50 percent in 2024 in Pakistan in the wake of floods and overpopulation.

In such a situation, he said the national poverty rate was likely to jack up by 4% points, thus pushing an additional 9.1 million people into poverty, especially in the wake of last year’s devastating floods that marooned over 33 million people and inflicted USD 40 billion losses to Pakistan’s economy.

According to Pakistan National Human Development Report 2017, about 39 out of 100 youth were employed including 32 of them male and seven female and 57 of 100 youth including 16 male and 41 female were neither working nor seeking jobs while about 94 percent do not have access to a library and 93 percent lacks access to sports facilities.

The report revealed that every year around four million youth enter the working age and if the existing trend of unemployment continues, then over 900,000 new jobs would be required in the next five year for youth.

Ikhtair Wali, Pakistan Muslim League-N KP Spokesman and former member provincial assembly, said that five major initiatives were launched by the present government for economic empowerment of youth under the Prime Minister’s Youth Development Program to contain unemployment.

Besides the provision of 20,000 internships for young engineers and diploma holders, he said that 75 national top talent scholarships for master’s and PhDs in 25 top universities, the establishment of 250 mini sports complexes, youth transformation plan for 20 under-developed districts and raising of innovation support fund were announced to tap potential of the youth. He said a ‘youth sports league’ was being launched for emerging players of cricket and football aged 15-25 in all provinces, GB and Azad Kashmir.

Under the landmark PM’s youth business and agriculture loans program, he said business loans were being provided through 15 commercial, Islamic and SMEs banks, adding there was no markup on Rs5 million loans, only a five percent mark on Rs5 million to Rs1.5 million loans and seven per cent interest on loans above Rs7.5million benefiting youth ageing from 21 to 45 years.

“I have set up my electronic business after availing PM’s loan facility,” said 25-year-old Wisal Khan, a young electrician from Pabbi Nowsher a while talking to reporter. He said the loan was being provided on easy terms and conditions and youth of KP can also take advantage of the facility by establishing their own business and standing on their own feet.

Ikhtair Wali continued that technical education and vocational training to 50,000 youth and apprenticeships to 25,000 youth would be provided besides paid internship to fresh and post graduates students while about Rs 20 billion scholarships were awarded to talented and deserving students.

He said the size of the federal development budget was Rs 1 trillion during the Nawaz Sharif Government in 2018 which was reduced to Rs550 billion by the PTI government that had badly affected youth and sports projects in the country including KP.

“The former PTI government despite its 10 years long rule failed to complete renovation and up-gradation work on Arbab Niaz International cricket stadium at Peshawar. The construction cost of Arbab Niaz stadium was swelled to over Rs 2 billion and was unlikely to be complete on the set deadline i.e. June 2023,” he claimed.

Similarly, he said construction work on Kalam sports stadium stretched on an area of 341 kanals in Swat district could not be started by the previous PTI government despite being the home district of former Chief Minister Mahmood Khan.

Mohsin Jameel Khan, Assistant Manager SMEDA told reporter that financial support and technical training in different SMEs business were being provided to the youth of KP under the national business development program. As many as Rs 500,000 grant was being provided for early start up businesses to youth for a period of four months to one year with 80 percent share by SMEDA and 20 pc by the beneficiary and an additional Rs 0.5 million grant for one to five years for strengthening of their business.

“We have prepared 350 business plans for youth and our experts were available to provide free training and expertise to SMEs,” he said. Under the Economic Revitalization Project worth USD 20 billion for KP, he said the youths were provided financial support in purchase of machinery, up-gradation of business, training to staff, and registration of business plans and trademarks etc.

With assistance of Federal Government, he said that the honey processing and packaging common facility centre (CFC), dyeing, washing and processing units for silk clusters and women business development centres in Mingora Swat were established besides setting up of spinning CFC at Islampur Swat to promote infant industries in Malakand division.

Engr Arifullah Shah, senior planning officer, Sports and Youth Affairs Department KP told reporter that work on five projects including two for merged areas worth Rs4087 million were underway for empowerment of youth, adding Rs2301 million were allocated for these projects in budget 2022-23.

Arif said work on two projects for merged areas including the establishment of sports complexes and economic uplift of youth costing Rs872 million was in progress while three projects namely youth development package, construction and rehabilitation of youth properties and financial empowerment of youth and women for settled districts of KP would help harness youth potential for national development.

“The land for Kalam cricket ground in Swat has been purchased with an estimated cost of Rs2.1 billion while 30 percent remaining work on Arbab Niaz Cricket stadium would hopefully be completed this year subject to availability of funds,” he added.

He said out of 1000 playground projects of the former PTI government, about 220 were completed while 780 were yet to be ready in KP due to lack of funds. Arifullah Khan said sports complexes for Chitral, Lakki Marwat, Karak and Dir Timergara approved besides approval of sports gymnasiums in Haripur, Bannu with allocation of Rs 707.608 million to engage youth in healthy activities.