In the first article of this series, I argued that the new government should transition to reconciliatory politics and take market based approaches to overcome massive challenges of governance in all high priority spheres. It was suggested that to ensure the requisite coherence and continuity of policies for far reaching development — and thus for efficient allocation of resources — the government should consider long term planning cycles involving all political parties and other stakeholders. Aside from addressing the most important areas of social services such as healthcare and education, and infrastructure such as water and power, the government should focus on just a few additional high stake thematic areas in each term. I argued that in the current term, the government should address the development of youth and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), which I identified as the areas needing attention most urgently due to their fundamental relevance to the current economic problems and correlation. This piece and the next will discuss youth development. To start with, it would be opportune to understand meaning of the term youth development from a policy perspective. NASET defines youth development as “a process that prepares a young person to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood and achieve his or her full potential. Youth development is promoted through activities and experiences that help the youth develop social, ethical, emotional, physical, and cognitive competencies.” As can be seen, the term is broad in scope. From a practical standpoint, the government should prioritise and target the most important and attainable goals while not losing sight of the desirable impact. But it’s important to first understand what the problem means in Pakistan’s context. English language training should be emphasised at the primary level, as the demand for English at the work place has risen considerably, particularly overseas where our labour force competes with Indians and Bangladeshis In Pakistan, the fact that the young population (below the age of 30) is now 64 percent of the total population gives a whole new meaning to youth development. It effectively implies that mainstream national development be calibrated to accommodate the special needs of young people for the foreseeable future. Consequently, simply put, the task for the government is to concentrate on health, education and skill development to help them achieve their maximum potential. The Prime Minister (PM) has already indicated that he is aware about this issue and has resolved to deal with the problem of stunted growth, which would presumably be solved within the framework of social policies both at the federal and provincial levels. Apart from nutrition, the cause of child and adolescent health also depends on improvement in family income which would be a subject of broader economic policy. In present times, the subject of the youth’s health also rests on the hygiene, sanitation, and environment (HSE) as well as clean drinking water. There are some other variables too, like for example sports and recreation, which play a very important role in not just physical but also cognitive, social, psychological, and emotional development. It can be seen that the issue is far more complex than it appears. Sports and recreation have been low priorities in government planning over the years. Apart from relevant government regulation of the urban planning to include and maintain facilities such as parks and play grounds, district administration can be mandated to take special measures to develop such facilities and organise events through community involvement. These interventions have been in vogue for some time, but they have been largely random initiatives by individual administrators rather being a coherent government policy. As such, much more needs to be done. Education is the young population’s other, equally important need. Much has been written and advocated on the subject over the years. There are a few important points that I would highlight. First, English language training should be emphasised at the primary level, as the demand for English at the work place has risen considerably, particularly overseas where our labour force competes with Indians and Bangladeshis. Second, computer literacy should be an essential part of high school and college education. There has been some effort towards this in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but it’s far from sufficient. Standards in other provinces are even lower. Overall, all past governments have tried to improve the literacy rates with mixed results. The rise in absolute terms is significant, from 26 percent in 1981 to 58 percent in 2017, but still lower than India’s 74 percent and Bangladesh’s 73 percent. The present government should undertake initiatives with a renewed resolve, emphasising private sector participation. But the major barrier in delivery through the private sector is its high cost for the general public. The government should regulate school fees according to a transparent criteria which fairly accounts for the costs incurred by entrepreneurs. The government can also reduce costs for these enterprises and for the public by putting latent resources to use, such as offering them public land on a long term lease for free, providing government school buildings in the evening shifts, reducing or eliminating taxes and providing security. Such public-private collaboration combined with other economic measures can revolutionise the education sector, and resultantly the literacy rates and higher education. After health and education the most important milestone in nurturing of youth is skill development. Apart from general skills such as writing, reading, speaking, and critical reasoning that come with education, acquisition of the job-specific skills, both soft and hard, is indispensable. Most of the youth is not equipped with job specific skills due to a combination of lack of awareness, motivation, and opportunities. Soft skills include professional values — hard work, integrity, work ethic, punctuality, workplace behaviour, and teamwork. Hard skills include technical and vocational training, language and computer literacy. The most prevalent issue is the lack of these skills in the blue collar labour force. In my years of business, I have observed and experienced massive inefficiency faced by SME’s due to educated but unskilled youths failing at the workplace due to lack of skills. Businesses, particularly start-ups, struggle to find trained labour and a vast majority of them incur losses or even fail due to persistent employee turnover. Traditional vocational training focuses on technical skills but ignores the soft skills. Conventional vocational training is suboptimal and scarce in the first place. As a result, there is a myriad of young people who are under employed or unemployed, while ironically, businesses struggle to find productive employees. Therefore, the country’s human resources are vastly under-utilised. The government needs to immediately address this problem through major initiatives. (Continued) The writer is a graduate of MIT, an experienced entrepreneur based in Islamabad, with previous service in public sector. He can be contacted at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, September 25th 2018.