ISLAMABAD, Dec 6 (APP):Prime Minister Imran Khan Friday said the government was pursuing its agenda of promoting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by providing loans and bringing ease of doing business, besides reshaping its policies.

Addressing a ceremony to distribute cheques among the beneficiaries of business loan under the Youth Entrepreneur Scheme, the prime minister said the SMEs were the backbone of every economy that created the most employment opportunities.

Minister for Planning Asad Umar, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Dr Fehmida Mirza, special assistants to prime minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Usman Dar, and National Assembly Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri also attended the meeting.

The prime minister said around one million applications had been received within 15 to 20 days, which manifested the people’s interest in the scheme. The utmost effort had been made to make the scrutiny process fully transparent and merit-based, he said, adding it was pleasing that around 190,000 women had also applied for loans.

He said it was among the government’s responsibilities to create an atmosphere for jobs creation by removing all impediments in the course of establishing businesses.

He said owing to a merit-based and transparent system in the United Kingdom, the Pakistani expatriates had joined the textile industry of Manchester as labourer and within a decade they purchased industries there. But the same people could not excel in Pakistan as the old mindset and practices here did not allow the businesses to flourish; however, the incumbent government was in the process to do away with all such policies, he added.

The prime minister told the gathering that only the societies with passion and merit could progress in any fields, including sports, regardless of their size and population.

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The government, he said, was making all-out efforts to bring ease of doing business to exploit the true potential of the country particularly by protecting the interests of the SMEs.

He said the SMEs always needed financial support from the government, which was being extended as the sector had faced neglect in the past.

The prime minister said the government’s efforts for bringing ease of doing business were coming to fruition as the World Bank had also upgraded Pakistan’s ranking by 28 points on that account.

He said it was pleasing that some applicants had also got loans to execute the tourism projects which could pay dividends within the shortest period. The number of tourists was increasing as the people visiting the tourist spots shared their photos on social media which attracted others to those venues.

Imran Khan said considering the growing number of tourists, the people of the areas concerned had opened up small guest houses or rented some portion of their own houses to earn money.

He said a new era was about to start in the tourism sector and urged the youth to exploit the potential to uplift the country.

He asked his Special Assistant on Youth Affairs Usman Dar to invite him again for the second phase of cheques distribution as he always felt pleasure by seeing the youth setting up their businesses to achieve financial independence.

The prime minister distributed cheques among the successful candidates who had applied for business loans from across the country, and wished them good luck for their future business plans.

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Addressing the event, Usman Dar said the applications for business loan were received and scrutinized through a digital system to ensure transparency and merit.

He said the applications of only those candidates had been approved who had come up with unique business ideas like Meesam of Parachinar, who wanted to launch his own software house, and Saiqa, who would build a motel in Nathia Gali.

He said the process had also helped them collect a data of a million people which would further be utilized in future projects to promote cottage industry at the district level.

Dar said the SME sector across the world had brought economic stability for being an engine of jobs creations.

He said around five million cottage industries were operating in the country but only 170,000 of those had been provided financial assistance. He was confident that the promotion of SMEs would help create around one million jobs.

Minister for Planning Asad Umar said the journey of real progress required the participation of millions of the people who got job opportunities and thus financial independence through SMEs.

He said the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme was of vital importance particularly for its distinction of being transparent to support the youth from across the country regardless of their political affiliation.

The minister told the gathering that during last five years around 109,000 applications had applied for business loan, but during the current government, one million people turned up within 15 days to avail the opportunity.