Provision of easy loan to farmers, SMEs govt’s priority: PM

Lahore: (Ch Mudassar Iqbal) Prime Minister Imran Khan said the provision of loan to the small farmers and small and medium industry was the government’s priority for both being the major sources of employment and poverty alleviation.

Addressing a signing ceremony of Service Level Agreement between Punjab Land Record Authority (PLRA) and major private commercial banks, the prime minister said it was a revolution to ease out the procedural difficulties the farmers had to face to get credit so far.

Under the agreement, a digital link would be established between the central database of land records and the banks which would verify the status of land of the farmers reducing the loan processing time from 30 days to three days and just after three visits of the bank.

He said through this initiative, a common farmer would get agriculture loan by visiting a bank and getting his land record verified without any hassle.

“This is a revolution… This is a beginning and a tremendous job. Because getting loans by the small farmers has almost been impossible so far.

Even small and medium industry which is the backbone of an economy and creates the most employment also faces difficulties to get loan,” he remarked.

Chief Minister of Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar, special assistants to prime minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and Zulfiqar Bukhari, Senior PTI leader Jahangir Khan Tareen, Governor State Bank of Pakistan Raza Baqir also attended the ceremony.

The prime minister said the civilized societies always played a collective role to bring their people out of poverty that had also been the characteristic of the State of Madina which had taken the responsibility of its poor citizens.

He said China could also steer around 700 million people out of poverty within 30 years just because the state had played its due role and farmers were fully supported.

Highlighting the government’s flagship initiative of Ehsaas, the prime minister said despite tough financial conditions, the government had earmarked Rs 200 billion for various anti-poverty programs to provide loans to youth, cash grants to women through a database connecting all the public and private sector institutions working for the poverty alleviation.

He said around 95 percent of farmers in Pakistan owned not more than 12 acres of land that was why they needed agri credit.

Referring to country’s economic condition during the first year of the government, he said the government could not concentrate on any other thing except the economy when it had to pay back $10 billion loan taken by previous government, control the devaluing currency and bridge the current account deficit.

However, he said today, rupee has gained, confidence of the businessmen and stock market had revived and the investors were looking towards Pakistan.

As told by Governor State Bank, the prime minister said it was pleasing that the farmers had been given record credit of Rs 1 trillion in a year which also showed that the economy was picking up.

The prime minister appreciated various initiatives of Punjab government which could brighten the future of Punjab and called for publicity of those initiatives to make the people know.

.:In his address, Governor State Bank Raza Baqir said the national economy had gained stability with increasing reserves, exchange rate not being volatile like the past and the foreign institutions also acknowledging the government’s efforts.

He said the economic stability always led to the creation of employment.

Calling for ending the economic disparity between rich and the poor, he said no economy could sustain for long without equally sharing the benefits of prosperity among the people.

He said the initiative of loan to farmers and SMEs would do help end disparity in the economy. He said the PLRA had the record of 55 million title holders but only 3.5 million of those were given credit the scheme would fill the very gap.

Moreover, he said electronic warehouses would be set up to allow the farmers preserve their crops there and get loans against that until they decide to sell it at an appropriate time to get a good price.

Punjab’s Minister for Revenue Malik Muhamamd Anwar said 30 major banks were collaborating under this project those would extend credit facility to farmers through their 3,000 branches. He said the farmers would now have to go through just three steps to get his loan processed.

He said 152 land record centers had been established and another 115 were in the process to be part of the project.

He said a World Bank team would visit Lahore within a couple of days to assist the Punjab government in urban digitization.

Earlier, the prime minister also distributed commendation certificates among the officers who had made the project a success.