The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC), the country’s highest economic decision-making body, on Friday approved 10 projects worth Rs125 billion, including the Rs23.6 billion Prime Minister’s Youth Training Scheme aimed at providing practical training to 150,000 young graduates of universities over the next three years.
The federal government showed unusual urgency in clearing the regulatory hurdles for this project. The Planning Commission received the project documents on August 3. The Central Development Working Party (CDWP), the ECNEC’s junior counterpart, cleared the scheme on August 31 and constituted a committee to rationalise its costs. The committee gave a clean bill of health to the project in very little time, and it was finally approved by ECNEC on Friday just over a month from its initial proposal.
The Nawaz administration has been focusing on the youth of the country amidst the perception that the young, educated middle class is more inclined towards the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), archrival to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).
The Zardari administration, led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), had also launched a similar scheme in 2008. However, the difference between the PPP and the PML-N’s schemes is the timing and the scope. The PPP launched the scheme in its first year while the PML-N has chosen the last three years of its five-year term. The PPP scheme was limited to only government departments while the PML-N has also included the private sector.
College graduates with 16 years of education will be eligible for this Internships scheme, said Inter-Provincial Coordination Secretary Ijaz Chaudhry. The government will pay a Rs12,000 monthly stipend for one year to each graduate on internship, who will be placed in organisatons from 150 fields, depending upon their qualification.
Every year, 50,000 graduates will be enrolled under the internships scheme that the government wants to launch from October 1. Positions will be distributed among the provinces on the basis of provincial quotas under the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, said Chaudhry.
He said the government has already done the work and solicited interests from various chambers, financial institutions and government bodies. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has already sought the placement of 40 law graduates.
The funds for the scheme will be allocated out of Rs20 billion earmarked for PM’s Youth Programme. The planning ministry had initially objected to making the Rs20 billion allocations as part of the development budget, terming the expense as recurring as no physical asset would be created by utilising these funds. However, the planning ministry had to withdraw its opposition after the finance ministry refused to treat the Rs20 billion expense as non-development expenditure.
ECNEC also approved Rs31.7 billion for the development of the Integrated Transit Trade Management System. The Asian Development Bank will provide a loan of $250 million (Rs25 billion) for the project. Under the scheme, modern trade and transit facilities will be established at border crossing points at Torkham, Chaman and Wagah.
ECNEC approved a Rs4.2 billion project to award 3,000 scholarships to students from Afghanistan under the prime minister’s directives.
The committee approved the Rs12.3 billion Economic Transformation Initiatives in Gilgit-Baltistan, of which Rs9.2 billion will be financed by a loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Punjab police will get Rs13.8 billion for its Integrated Command Control and Communication (PP-IC3) Programme.
The body approved Rs6.9 billion for land acquisition for the 120-kilometre Havelian-Thakot section of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. It approved, in principle, Rs13.8 billion for the Yakmach-Kharan road project in Balochistan.
The meeting also considered the Makhi Farash Link Canal Project (Chotiari phase-II) in Sindh for water supply to the Thar coalfields. It was decided that the federal and provincial governments would equally share the project cost of Rs10.6 billion.
The committee also approved the revision of the Shadi Kaur Dam, as well as Ghabir Dam, in Chakwal, Punjab.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2015.