President Yameen launches MVR200 million ‘Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Programme’

President Abdulla Yameen launched the ‘Get Set – Maldives Youth Entrepreneurship Programme’ at a function held last night to mark ‘National Youth Day.’

According to the President’s Office, MVR200 million (US$12.9 million) worth of loans would be provided through the initiative to encourage entrepreneurship among youth and assist the development of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“Two individuals may jointly apply ‎for loans to start up their businesses under this scheme,” the President’s Office explained in a statement.

“The recipients of the ‎scheme will be granted soft loans, along with the required technical ‎assistances through business incubation programmes.”‎

In his speech at the function, President Yameen pledged to help all young job seekers secure employment, adding that enough job opportunities were currently available for skilled youth.

“However, Maldivian youth should have the courage to remain in a job,” he said.

Yameen referred to a report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) two years ago, which found that the number of unemployed youth worldwide was 750 million or 16 percent.

The number of youth worldwide who earn less than US$2 a day was meanwhile 230 million, he noted.

At present, he continued, youth is synonymous with unemployed, homeless, and indebted.

However, the “strong, potent power” of youth could be “harnessed” to change the course of a nation, he said.

“The slogan I choose during the presidential election was ‘where there is life, there is hope’,” he said.

Efforts were underway to fulfil the Progressive Party of Maldives’ campaign pledge to create 94,000 jobs in five years, he said.

The government would establishe sports arenas in islands with a population in excess of 2,000 people by the end of 2015, Yameen pledged, which would include facilities and infrastructure for most sports played by Maldivian youth of both genders.

The government has allocated MVR300 million (US$19.4 million) in next year’s budget to conduct programmes aimed at youth, he noted, which Yameen said he considered “an investment”.

The government was also focused on rehabilitating wayward youth, he continued, and called on youth leaders to “harness positive energy” to enact “positive change” and “build the nation”.

The current administration believed Maldivian youth were “resourceful, innovative and productive,” he said.

Speaking at a function held last week to celebrate TC Sports Club’s promotion to the football first division, President Yameen said politicians would be “forced to walk down the path shown by youth”.

The government was erasing or expunging police records of youth who have served sentences under an inititiatve to provide employment opportunities, he said.

In July, Home Minister Umar Naseer told parliament that criminal records of more than 2,000 youth had been cleared.

A 2012 report on gang culture in the Maldives noted that lack of employment opportunities was one of the main reasons young people join criminal gangs.

Criminal records even for minor offences are not cleared for five years, the report noted.

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General’s (PG) Office revealed earlier this month that it has declined to prosecute 56 first offenders as of the last week of October – part of the office’s ‘second chance programme’

Youth awards

At last night’s event, President Yameen also presented ‘National Youth Awards’ for 2013 and 2014 to “nine individuals and two NGOs for their outstanding accomplishments in the ‎areas of sports, journalism, Dhivehi linguistics, events management, fashion ‎design, and social service.‎”

“The National Youth Awards 2014 was presented to 4 individuals and two ‎NGOs for their ‎outstanding accomplishments in the areas of sports, ‎creative writing and social service,” the President’s Office noted.

The recipients included national football team captain Ali Ashfaq, who recently won the Malaysian league’s ‘Foreign Player of the Year’ title.

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