HYDERABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to end nepotism in the country, while promising that only the most deserving would be able to avail student loans.

“Pakistan can achieve tremendous development by harnessing the youth’s talent and energy, who formed 60 per cent of the population,” he added.

Speaking at the launching ceremony of Youth Business Scheme here Friday, the PM said that every youth loan would be disbursed based on merit. He said that transparency would be maintained at any cost, adding that even he was not qualified to recommend anyone under the scheme. “We have to eliminate the culture of favouritism and recommendations,” he said, adding that billions of rupees in loans had already been granted to individuals and groups.

The PM said, “We are determined to remove the sense of deprivation among the youth by supporting them.” He said the government had decided to empower the youth economically by granting loans to help them launch their own businesses. This would not only help improve the socio-economic condition of the youth, but also directly benefit their family members, and other stakeholders engaged in different business activities, he added. The Prime Minister said the scheme was actually conceived during his last tenure, but it could not be launched due to unavoidable circumstances.

He questioned the process whereby a rich student was able to get a Rs20 billion loan, even as a poor student struggled to get approval for a paltry sum. “It is the youth who are the builders of Pakistan’s future and they are the force that would take the reign of the country,” he said. He said that the youth and their development were the government’s priority.

The PM criticised those who were trying to mislead the youth by making propaganda against the scheme. He called upon the youth not to pay any heed to them and work for the country’s progress and prosperity by availing the opportunity.

Recalling the Yellow Cab Scheme launched during his second tenure, the PM said it proved very successful as 99 per cent recovery rate had been achieved. He expressed the hope that after getting loan, the youth would work hard to promote their businesses and return their liabilities within scheduled time. He estimated that more than 100,000 youth would benefit from the loan scheme.

Realizing the difficulties in getting guarantors, he said the government had made some relaxation in that respect. The applicants could now name their relatives as guarantors. They could also furnish the guarantee of government officers of Grade-15 or above. The applicants could also produce the guarantee of more than one person and even they could get loan against moveable and immoveable property worth 1.5 times more than the required amount, he said.

He said the condition of having bank account with National Bank of Pakistan had also been relaxed and now those having accounts with other banks could also apply. He said the loan application scrutiny process was being monitored strictly, and if any injustice was done to the applicants, action would be taken against the bank officers concerned.

Under the recently launched scheme — allocating Rs100 billion for the initiative — anyone in the age bracket of 18 to 45 years is eligible to get a loan of up to Rs2 million for any commercial venture in the urban and rural economies.

The state-run National Bank of Pakistan sources said that 4,000 applicants had fulfilled the criteria of the loan so far, whereas 10,000 applications were still pending approval. The sources said that the banks may finalise 15,000 applications by the end of January. The scheme was launched to create jobs as the public and private sectors’ capacity to create more jobs was saturated at present amid low economic growth, which averaged a mere three per cent in the past few years.

The PM said the government had decided to launch Karachi Circular Railways and he had already chaired a meeting in this regard. He said the government was determined to serve the masses without discrimination and was making decisions purely on merit. The time was not far when the people would enjoy the fruit of his efforts. He said Sindh had played a great role after the creation of Pakistan as it welcomed all those wholeheartedly, who came here after migration from other parts of the Sub-continent. Later, Nawaz held direct interaction with the applicants, who were selected for grant of loan after completion of required formalities.

Among others, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Ameer Bakhsh Bhutto, Minister of State for Railways Abdul Hakeem Baloch, Advisor to the Prime Minister Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh, Imdad Bhutto, MPA Haji Shafi Muhammad Jamote, MPA Irfanullah Khan Marwat, General Secretary, Pakistan Muslim League-Sindh, Saleem Zia, Syed Aijaz Shah Sheerazi, Shah Muhammad Shah and Chief Coordinator Youth Business Scheme Sindh, MNA Ms. Marvi Memon were also present.