Rs100b interest-free loans for farmers to bring green revolution: Shahbaz


Punjab govt inks agreement with banks; Sits-in on the Mall should end now

Salim Ahmed

Lahore—Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has announced interest-free loans of Rs100 billion for small cultivators. The interest on these loans will be paid by a Punjab government.
The Chief Minister expressed these views while addressing the signing ceremony of agreements between Punjab government and banks with regard to provision of interest-free loans to small cultivators at Chief Minister’s office, here Saturday.
Secretary Agriculture Muhammad Mehmood, President National Bank of Pakistan Iqbal Ashraf, Executive Vice President Zarai Taraqiati Bank Riaz-ud-Din, Chief Executive Officer National Rural Support Programme Dr. Rashid Bajwa and President Tameer Bank Ali Riaz Chaudhary signed the documents. Provincial Ministers Dr. Farrukh Javed, Ayesha Ghaus Pasha, Deputy Governor State Bank of Pakistan Saeed Ahmad, Chief Secretary, bankers, agri experts, farmers’ representatives, intellectuals and columnists participated in the ceremony.
The Chief Minister said, thousands of farmers will benefit from this unique and splendid programme in the history of the country. He said that interest-free loans will be distributed among small farmers through modern technology. The Chief Minister said that the historic programme of provision of interest-free loans of Rs.100 billion for the development of agriculture sector and prosperity of farmers will bring about a socio-economic and green revolution in the country.
He said that agriculture is backbone of national economy and a guarantee to national prosperity and increase in exports besides being a source of earning foreign exchange. He said that prosperity of farmers will result in prosperity of Pakistan and strengthening of national economy. He said that revolutionary programme started by the government for the uplift of farmers, promotion of agriculture sector and increase in per acre yield will realize the dream of agriculture progress. He said that though the former rulers were associated with agriculture but they paid no attention to the development of this sector.
He said that the historic decision of provision of interest free loans of 100 billion rupees has been taken by Punjab government in the tenure of Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. Shahbaz Sharif said that due to this step of the government, the sit-ins on Mall Road will now stop and the farmers should now distribute sweets as the Punjab government has given this package for the prosperity of small cultivators. He said that those sit-ins should also now come to an end as undermine national interests.
Shahbaz Sharif said that agriculture is off key importance in national economy. He said that farmers and agri economy suffered a loss during last three years, rice and cotton crop was damaged while recession in international markets also affected the local farmers. He said that in view of the losses suffered by cultivators, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif gave a big package of Rs.40 billion and Punjab government contributed 50 percent share.
He said that a compensation of Rs.5000 per acre was given to small farmers for losses caused to rice and cotton crops. He said that federal government announced a big agriculture package in the budget this year as well which is being speedily implemented. He said that small cultivators are fully benefiting from reduction in the prices of fertilizers and in power tariff on agri tube-well. He said that Punjab government has also given its share of 50 percent in this package besides also announced historic package of 100 billion rupees for the development of agriculture sector.
The Chief Minister said that implementation of the package of Rs.50 billion has been started this year while agreement has been signed with the banks for the programme of provision of interest-free loans of Rs.100 billion. He said that it has been the point of view of cultivators that loans are given to industries and investors at the interest rate of 8 to 9 while per cent these are given to cultivators at the rate of 16 per cent. He said that the farmers have been demanding that loans should be given to them on 8 to 9 percent interest rate as well while the government has evolved the programme of provision of interest free loans to small cultivators.
He said that Punjab government itself is bearing the burden of interest on the loans given to small cultivators. He said that besides small cultivators, tenants will also benefit from this programme as have no land of their own. He said that this programme of the government will rid the farmers of exploitation by middle man as well as the existing cruel system. Addressing the bankers present at the function, the Chief Minister said that bankers always think before extending loans that it should be given to a wealthy person who can repay the loan while the history is witness to the fact that it has been elite as have got loans of billions of rupees written off and not those who earn their livelihood through hard work.
Shahbaz Sharif said that loans worth Rs25 billion have been distributed among 1.1m persons under Khadim-e-Punjab Rozgar Scheme and their rate of recovery is 99.9 percent. He said that no country can progress without promoting small business and the developed countries have also progressed through adopting this programme. He said that there is a need to move speedily towards this end. Referring to Khadim-e-Punjab Rural Roads Programme, the Chief Minister said that Pakkian Sarkan Sukhay Painday programme is continuing successfully for the last two years and a sum of Rs60 billion has been spent on this programme of construction and rehabilitation of rural roads. He said that carpeted roads are being constructed in villages for the first time in the history of the country. He said that this programme of construction and rehabilitation of roads will change rural economy. Similarly, he said that the biggest potable water programme has been started in the history of the country and this project has been initiated from south Punjab.
He said that a sum of Rs.30 billion is being spent on this programme this year. He said that international companies are coming for implementation of this programme and German and European consultant monitoring implementation process. He said that water supply and drainage schemes in the past could not be successful but the schemes started by Punjab government will run successfully as the companies which are starting these schemes will operate them for five years and also train the rural youth for this purpose.
The Chief Minister congratulated Provincial Minister for Agriculture, Secretary Agriculture, Chief Secretary and their entire team for evolving the programme of provision of interest-free loans to small cultivators and also thanked financial institutions for their collaboration. He said that this programme will bring about an agri revolution and Pakistan will be able to achieve a dignified status in the comity of nations. It may be mentioned that initially interest-free loans of Rs77 billion where to be given to small cultivators but Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif enhanced this amount to Rs100 billion. Provincial Minister for Agriculture Dr. Farrukh Javed while addressing the ceremony said that the programme to provide interest-free loans will bring a soft revolution and change lifestyle of rural people.
He said that android mobile phones will also be given to the cultivators through which they will remain in contact with as well as benefit from extension services through this phone. Provincial Finance Minister Ayesha Ghaus Pahsa said that development of agriculture sector will result in strengthening of national economy. She said that the programme started by Punjab government for the prosperity of small cultivators will be made successful with the collaboration of financial institutions. Secretary Agriculture Muhammad Mehmood gave details of the programme.

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