The government has launched a fresh loan scheme aimed at facilitating youth across the country through technical and financial assistance. Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the ‘Kamyab Jawan Programme’ on Thursday at a ceremony in Islamabad. Under the programme, Rs100 billion have been allocated for youth loans, Rs25 billion of which have been earmarked for women. Loans of up to Rs100,000 will be interest-free while loans of up to Rs500,000 will have sub-market interest rates. As part of the programme, internships for 25,000 young people will also be arranged in different industries.
A worrying comment in the PM’s speech on the occasion came later when he said the last 12 months had been “the worst time” he ever faced in his political career. Such a statement would not build confidence in an anxious nation, even if it was sugar-coated with the promise of good times ahead. Another oddity in the speech was the PM’s claim that the government had launched the project despite facing a severe financial crunch. But the PM’s Special Assistant on Youth Affairs, Usman Dar, has previously claimed that the programme is financed by the United Nations Development Programme and no tax money will be spent on it. So why would the PM have brought up the financial crunch if setting aside funds required no economic wisdom?
But even if we assume it was a bad adlib comment and ignore it, there are ups and downs to such a loan scheme. For one, such schemes have been problematic in the past, and while critics will say this was because of the ineptitude of past governments, look at the recent tax amnesty. Strategies that failed in the past will likely fail in the present. The bright side, however, is that the entire programme is being made available on a digital platform and an artificial intelligence-based ‘scorecard’ has been developed to run it. If this helps keep the programme efficient, the gains the PM promised may indeed come to fruition.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2019.
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