ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif on Saturday launched the entrepreneur-friendly Youth Business Loans programme in a bid to control the spiraling unemployment in the country, Express News reported.
The Youth Business Loan programme, which is part of the larger 'Prime Minister's Youth Programme' initiative, is designed to provide subsidised financing at 8% mark-up per annum for 100, 000 beneficiaries through the National Bank of Pakistan and First Women Bank.
Speaking on the occasion, Nawaz Sharif said that excessive nationalisation by previous governments had devastated industry and economy in Pakistan.
"It is not the government's task to be running businesses. That's for the people to do," Nawaz said to applause from the audience. "The government's responsibility, rather, lies in delivering the quality of security and law and order as is required by the people."
Nawaz said that everything from banks to mills and even the tiniest industries were nationalised in Pakistan, which hindered the country from running an economy on small enterprises, which other countries like Korea succeeded in.
"I was surprised to see that in countries like Korea, these small enterprises form the very crux, the driving force behind the economy."
The PM went on to say that when he was first elected prime minister in 1990, the government privatised many of these industries including banks like Muslim Commercial Bank, Habib Bank Limited and others.
"It's this privatisation that has borne fruit and made these companies, industries immensely profitable not just for themselves, but for the national exchequer account too."
Nawaz said that statistics indicated that a large percentage of the youth in this country was unemployed.
"A large number of hands shot up at every occasion I asked for a show of hands by those who were suffering from unemployment," he said.
"It was heartbreaking to see this number of people unemployed, and to know that no one in Pakistan cared about these people, many of whom were degree-holders too."
Nawaz went on to say while inaugurating the loans scheme that the programme had received accolades and encouragement from various foreign officials. He especially mentioned US President Barack Obama Senator John Kerry while describing the kind of support Pakistan was offered to make an economic recovery.
Speaking on the occasion‚ the PM's daughter and Chairperson of Prime Minister's Youth Business Loans Maryam Nawaz said the launch is fulfillment of one of Nawaz Sharif's prime election commitments.
"The Rs100 billion set aside for the programme will be disbursed among 100,000 talented and skilled youth in the next seven months," she said.
"The Prime Minister was deterred and discouraged by many people, who advised him against the idea of distributing funds to inexperienced youth. But he always said - and I'm witness to this - that we should trust our youth, that investment in youth is investment in the future of Pakistan."
Maryam Nawaz said there are only three conditions for the applicants - that they should be Pakistani‚ they should hold a valid Computerised National Identity Card and lastly, they should have a guarantor.
She said forms of the Youth Business Loans will be available from Monday and these would be issued free of cost.
Special counters have been set up at banks and SMEDA offices to facilitate applicants and guide them.
She also explained the procedure for the processing of applications and other details of the Youth Business Loans, clarifying that necessary checks have been put in place to ensure transparency of the loans.
The total mark up rate would be 15% but the government would pay the remaining seven percent on behalf of applicants.
Those falling in the age group of 21 and 45 years are eligible to apply for loans inside the range of Rs0.5 million to Rs2 million.
Small business loans with tenure up to seven years plus one year grace period and a debt-equity ratio of 90:10 will be disbursed across the country including four provinces‚ Gilgit-Baltistan‚ Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority has been tasked with an advisory role in the implementation of Prime Minister's scheme.