ISLAMABAD, May 14 (APP): Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Thursday said agriculture was a priority area for the government and would be given the status of industry, while scope of agriculture credit would be expanded.
He was addressing a ceremony here at the Prime Minister's Office at the launch of a Credit Guarantee Scheme for small farmers.
The Prime Minister said he was pleased to participate in a scheme that would specially benefit the small farmers, as it would raise their standard of living and bring about a positive impact in the lives of people in the rural areas.
He said Pakistan Muslim League has a clear-cut manifesto which was finalised after thorough deliberations. He highlighted many of the features of the PML manifesto that dealt with the agriculture sector.
The prime minister said easy loans would be made available for agriculture sector, improvement of livestock with a view to achieve self sufficiency and computerisation of land record.
He said when his government came into power in 2013, the national economy was in a dilapidated state and faced a number of challenges on different fronts. He however said that with tireless efforts, Pakistan's economy was experiencing a boom.
The Prime Minister said over 65 percent of farmers own less than 5 acres of land and said the banks need to focus on deserving people and open their doors for them, so as to help them stand on their own feet.
He said the government wanted to improve resources for the small farmers by providing them better fertilisers, pesticides and farming equipment for increased yield.
He said it was not right to go out of way to serve those who are already wealthy and still want loans of billions, but those who have meager income and really need money, are deprived.
The Prime Minister said similarly it was not acceptable that the young graduates were being ignored and they too were looking frantically for jobs or ways to start their own business, but they do not have the resources.
He said the default rate of money lended to small borrowers was less than one percent as compared to those who borrow huge amounts, where the default rates are high.
Prime Minister said China Pakistan Economic Corridor was not being welcomed by many a internal and external forces who did not want to see progress and development of Pakistan.
He regretted and pointed that these people did not want to see the country get new roads, power houses, infrastructure, health and education. He said the investment of estimated US 45 billion dollars for the economic corridor were an eye sore for many and urged the audience to pray to Almighty Allah to protect the country from the evil of their intentions.
The Prime Minister again condemned the Karachi killings of Wednesday and said the government remained committed to wipe out the menace of terrorism. He said special courts have been established, after the unanimous decision of the parliament for the speedy trial of the terrorists.
He also recalled his recent visit to Kabul and said he and Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani were on same page for joint measures to counter terrorism.
The Prime Minister lauded the efforts of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar for his efforts to strengthen economy. He said Rs 250 billion were allocated in the Public Sector Development Program for the energy sector alone in one year. The Prime Minister also lauded the role of Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited.
The prime minister was earlier briefed about the scheme aimed at facilitating the small farmers increase their productivity. He was informed that agriculture has a 21 percent share in national economic growth, while agricultural products constitute 60 percent of exports.
He was informed that Pakistan was the fourth largest cotton producer in the world, eighth in sugar cane, besides being fifth largest milk producer in the world with 41 billion liters of milk produced annually.
A UN Report was also mentioned which predicted that in ten years time Pakistan will be one of the 17 countries which would face serious water crisis and suggested urgent need for water conservation and management.
It was also informed that salinity and water logging were one of the major problems confronting the agricultural sector in the country. The meeting was also informed of the measures being taken to increase productivity, information sharing through model farms and introduction of mobile banking in rural areas.
The Credit Guarantee Scheme has been launched by the government to encourage banks to finance small farmers. The Government through State Bank of Pakistan has ensured provision of guarantee to banks for up to 50% loss sharing which will benefit 300,000 farmers. The size of the total disbursement will be Rs.30 billion.