At a ceremony held in Islamabad, the premier distributed the first set of cheques — worth Rs5 million in total — among successful applicants of the programme.
According to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs Usman Dar, Rs100 billion have been earmarked for the programme.
Addressing the event, the prime minister credited Dar for his efforts and expressed happiness at the fact that of one million applicants, 190,000 had been women.
“The foremost thing we must always ensure in this programme is transparency. The cheques should be distributed on merit. This is because people have a lot of hope pegged with this programme, which is reflected in the fact that around one million people have applied for these loans within 15-20 days,” said the premier.
“The biggest feature of this programme is that businesses that are considered small and medium are being facilitated,” he said.
The prime minister said that the government’s duty is to not only create jobs but also “stop hurdles that stand in the way of businesses”.
He recalled that when he went to Britain for the first time, he observed that the entire textile sector was in the hands of Jews. Then, over the course of ten years, Pakistanis migrated there and were able to capture the majority of the textile market.
“What reason was there for these small entrepreneurs to not have been able to set up their businesses in Pakistan? Pakistan is a cotton producing country. It should have been easier for us.”
He said the difference between successful societies and those that get left behind in the world is that in successful societies there is merit. “They facilitate them and provide them with opportunities to start their businesses so that any youngster with a drive to excel can improve their station in society. This is what we call a meritocracy.”
He said only such countries which have a system of merit can progress. Citing examples of overseas Pakistanis who have been able to make a name for themselves in every walk of life, he said that such individuals had been rewarded for their hard work by society.
The prime minister said that ‘Naya Pakistan’ represents a new way of thinking in which merit has to be ensured across the board.
“An online system will ensure there are no undue favours to anyone,” he said.
Speaking of small businesses, Prime Minister Imran said that they are the ones most in need of resources and facilities. “Big businesses have resources and can sidestep hurdles. But the backbone of the economy is the small business. And when society paves the way forward for such businesses, the country propels forward.”
He said that the biggest number of jobs are provided by the small and medium industries (SMEs). “So this programme is for the youth, but alongside that, the SMEs will benefit greatly from this,” he added.
The premier regretted that the biggest hurdles had been historically created for small businesses. He assured small business owners that the government will now focus its attention on their affairs.
“According to the new World Bank report, Pakistan has climbed 28 points (in the ease of doing business ranking) […] This doesn’t mean we stop there. We will continue to make the process even easier.
“I also think our women are in dire need of opportunities and I was happy to see that they have come forward from Parachinar and Galyat expressing their desire to do business. And especially in tourism.”
He said that tourism is an industry which has “untapped potential that people are not even aware of”. “The fastest job creation will be because of this sector,” he added.
The premier, describing how tourism in Pakistan had taken off in recent months, said that “more and more tourists are coming every year, but we have no room to board them”. He appreciated that many people had created attached guest rooms to house tourists.
“Women can participate in the IT revolution. So a new era is beginning now. If our youth fully participate, they alone can uplift our country,” he said.
At the end, he asked Dar to call him once again at the next cheque distribution ceremony “because I am always happy to see the youth come forward with such enthusiasm and for the government to be able to facilitate them”.