LAHORE - Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif said that Chief Minister Self Employment Scheme (CMSES) is aimed at promoting self-reliance through utilisation of skills.

The CM said this while addressing a ceremony to distribute interest-free loans among women under the CMSES at the Alhamra here on Tuesday. Punjab Minister for Industry Ch. Muhammad Shafiq, Minister for Women Development Hamida Wahid-ud-Din, Punjab Educational Endowment Fund vice chairman Dr Amjad Saqib and a large number of women were present on the occasion.

Shahbaz said that interest-free loans worth Rs5.5 billion have so far been distributed under the scheme, benefitting 0.35 families. He said that another Rs6 billion would be given to 2 million families during the next five years. He said that ratio of the loan repayment under the scheme was hundred percent, while huge amount of Rs300 billion had been gobbled up in the form of loans which were later written off on political basis. He said that corrupt system would have to be rooted out in the best interest of the country. He said that a country, where influential persons get their loans written off whereas skilled persons are compelled to beg, could not be described as a welfare state. He said that the obsolete system would have to be changed through collective wisdom and concerted efforts whereas the principle of hard work and honesty adopted for making Pakistan a welfare state in the real sense.

The chief minister said that he was once again attending such ceremony which was changing history of the past when talented and hard workers were ignored while beggary was promoted. He said that such a culture had taken roots in the country under which the influential persons, who got their loans written off on political basis, claimed to be respectable on the basis of their ill-gotten wealth.

On the other hand, he said, there were skilled persons who were ignored, and banks and other financial institutions are also used to turn down their pleas for loans as they had no intercession. But, he said, the CMSES has changed the course of history and 0.35 million poor families have been made self-reliant through interest-free loans. He said that merit, transparency and proper utilisation of national wealth has been ensured in Punjab.

The CM said that he has been serving the masses with honesty for the last five and half years, and no one could accuse him of misappropriation of even a single penny. He said that Punjab Educational Endowment Fund was a revolutionary programme helping more than 50,000 poor but talented students. He said that disparity between the poor and rich is the main hurdle in the process of progress and development, and equitable distribution of wealth has to be ensured.

Shahbaz said that women are half of the country’s population and the goal of national progress and prosperity could not be achieved without bringing them into national mainstream. He said that women would have to work shoulder to shoulder with men and play their due role in all sectors of life.

The CM said that Pakistan would have to be made a great country through collective efforts. He was of the view that honesty and hard work were needed to change the course of history. He said that the government is working hard under the leadership of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for resolving the ongoing energy crisis and bringing the country out of the quagmire of problems. He said that China is also extending all-out support to overcome the shortage of electricity. He said that the promise of resolving power loadshedding would be materialised, putting the country on the road to progress and development.

Shahbaz Sharif said that due to criminal negligence of the former rulers, the machinery of Nandipur power project kept rusting at Karachi Port for about three years and now an additional amount of Rs.27 billion will have to be spent on the project. He said that the project would start generating 550 megawatts electricity from next month.  He said that collective efforts would be made to make Pakistan a welfare state which could mitigate public issues.

The chief minister appreciated the efforts of Dr Amjad Saqib and his team with regard to self employment scheme and said that minimum limit of interest-free loan be raised from Rs20,000 to Rs40,000.

Refereeing to his recent visit to Sahiwal, the CM said that he visited the victim of gang rape and sympathised with the affected family.

Later, the CM distributed cheques of interest-free loans among the women.