ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday said his government was determined to eliminate unemployment, poverty and illiteracy from the country through youth-oriented projects by channelising potential of youngsters.

Addressing a ceremony to mark the first balloting of aspirants of Prime Minister Youth Business Loan Scheme, the prime minister said the government desired to expand the said scheme to the extent that the country got rid of unemployment. He said around Rs 3.70 billion would be disbursed among 5,399 applicants declared successful through the first balloting.

The prime minister said in the past the banks had restricted their loan facilities to influential people, ignoring around 90 percent of the population that could change the country’s future like all developed nations.

He said the poor population faced neglect in the past despite having qualification, expertise and dedication as all they lacked were resources. However, the government would help their dreams come true through such schemes, he added.

Nawaz Sharif said his announcement for the youth loan scheme during the electioneering was not a political slogan; rather it was his strong commitment to ensure access of this segment of the society to the national resources.

He said small and medium enterprises always led the national economy, but in Pakistan the youth welfare always remained confined to words only.

“We will change the lives of the people. Though changing fate lies with Allah, someone has to become a source for this,” he remarked. He told the gathering that the country’s economy was heading positively with increase in investment by 5 percent, tax recovery by 17 percent till January this year and industrial growth by 6.6 percent till December last.

He said the government had to take tough decisions in the initial days that increased inflation because the previous governments had done nothing to address energy crisis and other grave issues.

He said loadshedding has decreased remarkably and vowed to end the same as various energy projects were underway to meet the country’s energy requirements till 2025 by generating around 25,000 megawatts.

The prime minister said work on Karachi-Lahore Motorway would be started very soon while phase-wise construction of Lahore-Multan, Sukkur-Multan and Sukkur-Hyderabad sections would be carried out.

He hoped the youth would come forward by starting their own businesses in various sectors which would not only support their families but also create jobs opportunities for others.

He said around 28,000 applications were received from Punjab, 3,000 from Sindh, 3,500 from KPK, 1,000 from Balochistan, 600 from Islamabad, 500 from AJK and 100 from Gilgit-Baltistan.

He said out of the processed 6,000 applications, 5,399 would be balloted and the successful candidates would be informed through SMS.

He said the volume of loans to a particular province would not surpass the provincial quota and the government has targeted 100,000 applicants to disburse loans in 2013-14.

He urged the people from all the provinces, particularly women, to come forward for taking part in the national development and apply for the loan to exploit the allocated limit for their respective provinces.

The gathering was told that the balloting had been carried out among the male applicants from Punjab as they outnumbered the set allocated quota as applications from other provinces was lower than the quota.

The prime minister said out of the 38,000 total applications received by the banks, 31,000 were men and 7,000 women and majority of them was between 21 and 30 years.

Later, the prime minister carried out the balloting by pressing a computer key.

Addressing the gathering, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said the country’s economy had suffered due to uneven distribution of resources in the past as the youth population was never made partner in the national development.

He said State Bank had directed all commercial banks to divert their resources to the PM's Youth Loan Scheme. “If they tilt only 10 percent of the country’s total loan portfolio worth Rs 5,000 billion, the youth will get around Rs 500 billion loan,” he added.

Referring to the government’s steps to improve the national economy, he said a survey carried out by a Japanese organisation revealed that Pakistan would be the choicest place within next few years. A renowned economic Jim O'neil also forecast Pakistan as 18th biggest economy by year 2050, he revealed.

NBP President Syed Ahmed Iqbal and NBP Chairman Munir Kamal also addressed the gathering and highlighted various aspects of the youth loan scheme.

The ceremony marked the performance of Youth Ambassador Nadeem Abbas along with his team. Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, PM Youth Business Loan Scheme Chairperson Maryam Nawaz, Cabinet members and thousands of youngsters attended the ceremony.

Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, speaking on the occasion, said youth were the country’s asset and they could play a vital role in economic development of the country. He said the prime minister was taking personal interest in the scheme, adding it was the fulfillment of his promise made during the last elections. He said all the banks must move their resources towards welfare of the youth for reducing unemployment from the country.