In the most encouraging economic development since the new government took office earlier this year, statistics released by the prime minister’s youth business loan program reveal that thousands of young people Pakistan are naÏve enough to think it might be viable for them to run their own business in this economy. “It is definitely a very positive indicator,” a government official associated with the program told this scribe, “to see how easy it is to fool young people into believing they will able to pay off the loans in eight years.” Critics of the program, who include the rest of the 100 million young people of the country, have identified three key problems that may cause the program to fail. Background interviews reveal that a majority of them were remarkably ignorant of the fact that their own opposition to the program was based on political affiliations rather than economic insight. “Firstly, the application form is extremely difficult,” said a young man considering opening a bookshop. His new and innovative business model involves putting Paulo Coelho , Fatima Bhutto and Bilal Tanweer books in a separate shelf close to the entry, so that teenagers with bad taste do not mix with serious customers. “For example,” he said, “in response to the question ‘Loan Amount Expected’, many applicants wrote ‘Yes!’.” An economic expert said changes in the form were essential. He recommended adding a yes-or-no question at the end of the form, asking the applicants if they were out of their freaking minds thinking they can actually run a business with that amount in these economic conditions. But he praised an “it’s complicated” option in the marital status section, adding it might be very useful in screening the candidates for potential failures. Another major problem with the form is the problem of finding guarantors. While most young people found no problems finding senior government officials who would guarantee that they would return their loans, they could not find any government officials who would guarantee that the economy would remain stable enough for them to run successful businesses. The third and the most serious problem is that a large number of young men and women admit off the record that they would spend the loans on building or buying new houses, on emigrating, on their weddings, or on purchasing several hundred dollars. The provincial government announced in a surprise move that it would allow people to use the business loan for wedding. “We are fine with it,” a source privy to the developments divulged to this scribe. “We will let people use the loan for their wedding, but then if they are not able to pay it back on time, their wives will be confiscated as collateral by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif .” The scheme has been so successful, the official said, that the government has decided to follow it up with another scheme, in which aspiring young entrepreneurs of Pakistan will be asked to lend no-interest long-term loans to the government, in order to ensure the progress and prosperity of the government after having wasted so much money on irrecoverable loans. A large number of young businessmen have decided to invest the capital they acquire in the banking sector. “If they put the money in a long-term fixed deposit, they can earn up to 10 percent per annum, returning 80 percent of the money to the government and keeping the other 20 percent as profit,” said an investment broker. A finance expert said the move might also help the ailing banking sector. “Government borrowing has crippled the banks, this is a good way of taking the money back,” he added. To test the hypothesis, this scribe went to a bank manager and said I was interested in a loan. The manager took this scribe outside for a cigarette break and asked how much interest I would charge him. The most lucrative medium business, according to the investment broker, belongs to the security sector. “These days it is not difficult to create your own Taliban faction,” he said. “All you need is a website or a Facebook page, several letterheads, ammonium nitrate, and a feigned desire to negotiate with the government.” “A Taliban faction is a good services sector enterprise,” another expert said. “Of the several services you can provide include security,” he added. “You can ensure the security of life and property of key traders if they agree to pay the ransom.” Other services include instant free banking and postmodern interior design. The easiest way to run a small business in Pakistan , according to another economic pundit, is to first start a large business and then wait for a few months. “In this economy, it will not take too long for the large business to become a small business.”
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