ISLAMABAD - While inaugurating business loan scheme for youth, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the government had opened new avenues for the youth to stand on firm footing.

While addressing youth here at the Prime Minister’s House on Saturday evening, he said: “During the election campaign, I witnessed the vigour and enthusiasm that the youth showed and I thought the government should empower the youth so that they could contribute effectively towards development of the country.” He added, “I decided to form government only for the youth and to solve their problems as they are the future of Pakistan.”

Nawaz Sharif said his government inherited a lot of problems, including a weak economy, power shortage, terrorism and law & order situation, but he accepted the challenge and immediately started working to solve them. The government started new power projects, retired circular debt, launched operation against terrorists. However, time was required to see the results of efforts on ground, he maintained.

Premier Sharif said nationalisation policy adopted by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto caused enormous damage to the country’s economy. Had private industries not been nationalised, Pakistan would have been one of the strongest economies of this region, he remarked.

He, however, expressed his resolve to put the country’s economy back on track and assured the youth that all the promises made by PML-N during the elections campaign would be fulfilled at all costs.

While addressing the youth, the prime minister said there would be complete transparency in the award of loans and an effective monitoring mechanism had been evolved to keep a check on the loan-awarding process so that merit could be ensured. He further said Rs 100 billion had been allocated for this programme during the current financial year. In the first phase, 100,000 unemployed youth would be given loans through ballot. “No one will have the authority to influence the loan-awarding process,” said the prime minister. Youth will have 8 years payback time with first year grace period for repayment.

The prime minister said the government reposes full trust in the youth of Pakistan and expects that the loans would be utilised effectively to generate business and employment opportunities. About 50 percent of the loans are allocated for female youth. The government is also going to announce low-cost housing scheme for the poor very soon, he disclosed.

Earlier, PM Youth Programme Honorary Chairperson Maryam Nawaz said the most important advantage of the PM Youth Programme is the youth would be converted from dependents to providers. She said: “The PM has assigned me responsibility of empowering our youth and I gladly accepted because investing in youth is equal to investing in Pakistan’s development. The PM Youth Programme comprises six schemes, including business loans programme, micro interest-free loans programme, skill development programme, fee reimbursement for deserving students programme and training programme.”

Maryam Nawaz further said 55 projects’ pre-feasibilities have been prepared and are available on SMEDA website. However, if an applicant has his/her own business plan, that too would be acceptable for participation in the award process. The National Bank of Pakistan and the First Women’s Bank have been strictly directed to ensure complete transparency and merit, she concluded.