Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday launched PM’s Youth Business and Agri loans scheme which would provide opportunities to the youth to earn their livelihood through different business and agriculture initiatives. Addressing the launching ceremony, the prime minister said that Pakistan was passing through difficult times and resolved that he would sacrifice all his political career and life for the sake of the country. “I have served thrice as a chief minister of Punjab and now serving as an incumbent prime minister of the country, what legacy we will leave behind if these issues are not being addressed? It is clear that Pakistan is facing huge challenges, and if we have taken responsibility, we will make our all-out efforts to steer the country out of the difficulties,” he stressed. The prime minister said it was their collective responsibility as Pakistanis, politicians and the Muslims to respond to the difficult situation, and he would not even desist from sacrificing his life for the country. He said in this path, problems would spring up, but they would have to bear the pains. The people at the helms of affairs, politicians and rich have to set an example, as it was unfair to burden the poor with price hike and let the rich and elite to enjoy on the country’s loans, he added. PM Youth Business and Agri Loans Scheme is aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among youth by providing business loans on simple terms and with less markup through 15 Commercial, Islamic and SME banks. All Pakistani residents, aged between 21 and 45 years with entrepreneurial potential are eligible to apply for the loan. Loans provided under the scheme are segregated into three tiers. The prime minister, expressing his optimism, said that youth had the potential and talent and together, they would steer Pakistan out of the current issues. He praised them as ‘the shining stars on the horizon of the country’. The prime minister said the prime responsibility of addressing the country’s issues rested with the government. They took reigns of the government under the most difficult times, but despite all these ordeals, their resolve grew stronger to make Pakistan stronger, he added. The prime minister also reiterated that the government had told the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that they were keen to complete the 9th Review Programme and wanted to conclude the terms through negotiations without any delay, so that Pakistan could move ahead. He expressed the optimism that country’s other multilateral and bilateral programmes would also move ahead. The prime minister mentioned that Pakistan was spending $27billion dollars on import of costly oil for energy generation and it could be reduced by half by taking practical steps. The prime minister, in apparent veiled reference to the former PTI’s provincial government of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said the federal government had announced steps over energy conservation, but unfortunately, one provincial government approached the high court for a stay order while another provincial government used delaying tactics. To save Pakistan, they would have to sacrifice politics. The PML-N and other allied parties were committed to overcoming the current challenges, he added. Recollecting his tenure as Khadim-e-Ala of Punjab, he said there was a time when the provincial government utilized its resources for providing interest free loans to the youth while thousands of laptops were provided on merit. Through the Bank of Punjab, he said, different schemes were launched including the youth self-employment scheme, loans worth Rs40 billion had been distributed among the youth of the province with 99 percent recovery. The prime minister said an amount of Rs40 billion was distributed as stipends among the students in Punjab, including orphans during his tenure as chief minister from 2008 and onwards, enabling them to pursue their educational career and accomplish their aims in life. He said it was the real investment for any nation. He opined that the youth of the country was committed, and if they were provided with opportunities, they could take the country forward. The prime minister further said PM’s Youth programme was also launched during former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s tenure at the federal level and Rs75 billion worth loans were provided to 5,4000 youth which had not only benefited the youth, but also boosted the country’s economy. Contrary to the criticism of political opponents, he said during the Covid pandemic, those laptops became a source of income for the youth and they served the country with their potential. The prime minister said considering the financial burden, the government in collaboration with the banks and financial institutions had launched this scheme. Under the scheme, he said loans would be extended to the youth in different categories, thus providing them a springboard to excel in different fields. He further informed that the government was also mulling to initiate scheme for distribution of about 100,000 laptops on merit. Unfortunately, during the last 75 years, the prime minister regretted they all were responsible for the country’s woes and stressed that they have to accept the past mistakes, and move ahead by learning from the experiences of the past. He also expressed the optimism that the country would be soon out of the woods and cited examples of Japan and Germany. PM’s Special Assistant on Youth Affairs Shaza Fatima Khawaja, on the occasion, also highlighted the key features of the scheme. She said the present government was committed to translating its vision for youth contrary to the hollow slogans of the previous government. Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Jameel Ahmed appreciated the scheme and said about 64 percent of the country’s population comprised youth. He said the SBP assisted the government in the formulation of the scheme, adding about 15 banks and 5 micro banks would be participating in this scheme.