KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief and one of the top contenders to take country’s reins of power in upcoming general elections Imran Khan has planned to revive the dilapidated national economy through the party’s National Affordable Housing Policy.
Under the policy, prepared by former House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC) chairman Zaigham Rizvi, the PTI will construct five million housing units in the country, providing not only affordable abode to people, but also energising economic activities and addressing the unemployment challenge.
“Pakistan’s biggest problem is unemployment. Pakistan has the second largest youth population after Yemen. Unemployed youth either leave the country to find employment elsewhere and those who are unable to leave get involved in unsocial activities. The youth that could have been a boon for the country has become a burden,” said Khan while talking about PTI’s policy at the Association of Builders and Developers (ABAD) House on Wednesday.
He added that the growth rate of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) had been the lowest in the region and voiced hope that the target of five million houses would help the country achieve growth and subsequently enhance employment. “The target of constructing five million houses is not simple, it’s very difficult. We are challenging ourselves with this great target. When we planned to grow one billion trees, nobody believed us. It was an arduous task. We had to fight the timber mafia and 10 forest guards were also martyred. But we achieved a milestone as different agencies across the world have accepted and praised our achievement,” he said.
“This time our fight would be against the bureaucracy that obstructs the process for builders to establish their projects in order to draw monetary incentives (bribes from property developers).”
He said his government would establish one-window operations to facilitate builders and developers in order to achieve the party’s goal. Procedures will be digitalised.
“I have a friend in England, who is a top builder there. I have also asked him to help us in our endeavours,” he said.
Khan was of the view that the process of establishing five million houses would have an immense spillover effect on more than 100 industries, which all provide inputs in one way or the other for construction business.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Rizvi said the builders and developers would be regularised under the policy in order to achieve the target.
Pakistan Mortgage Refinance Company (PMRC) Managing Director and CEO NK Rupan had also said at a PRMC event that property developers had to be regulated in order to build houses to cater to the needs of maximum number of people in the country. He also pointed out that there was a mismatch in the demand and supply of houses in Pakistan. There had been a huge demand for low-cost houses, but development had been going on for high-cost homes only.
According to a research conducted by Ansaar Management Company, only 1% of the housing units developed annually cater to 68% of Pakistan’s population, comprising people who earn a maximum monthly income of Rs30,000.
It is also said that 56% of the housing units constructed during a year cater to a market that represents 12% of Pakistan’s population, who earns above Rs100,000.
Khan pointed out that the country had been fortunate that it had a huge demand for 12 million houses, which the West lacked and therefore the model of economic revival through affordable houses was applicable here.
The PTI chief was of the view that things would not go as they had been going in the country as the economy was in a very bad shape. It has been deteriorating for the last 10 years. The US dollar has jumped from Rs60 to Rs125. The country’s debt has grown to Rs27,000 billion.
“We have to change ourselves if we want to come out of this crisis,” Khan said. According to the PTI’s new economic policy, if the party comes to power, it will keep the tax regime unchanged for the next five years.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2018.