The federal government decided on Tuesday to establish a new company called ‘Apna Ghar Limited’ to oversee the construction of low cost small housing units amid apprehensions that this may also meet the fate of the ‘Mera Ghar’ project that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had launched in 1997.
The decision to form a public limited company was taken here during a meeting of the Steering Committee for the Prime Minister’s Low Income Housing Scheme. Under the low cost housing scheme, the government wants to construct 500,000 housing units for families in the low income.
The meeting was chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and attended by Minister of State for Housing and Works, Secretary Housing, Minister Housing Punjab, Minister Housing Sindh, Special Assistant to Chief Minister for Housing-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Minister for Housing Balochistan.
The government’s decision to set up yet another company in the public sector is contrary to its ideology of shrinking the government’s footprints. The company will be established despite the fact that some public sector enterprises were already performing similar functions.
The steering committee decided that ‘Apna Ghar Limited’ will be formed under the Companies Ordinance. The Ministry of Housing was asked to complete all legal formalities with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan by Friday, according to an official handout.
It added that the “Apna Ghar Limited” will be a self sustainable housing project. It will not be a charity project but a non-listed public company formed to build 1,000 clusters of 500 houses each with an ultimate goal of constructing 500,000 housing units in five years, said the finance ministry.
Spokesman for the Finance Ministry Rana Assad Amin said that the government’s involvement in the company’s affairs will be limited to the extent of providing land while the rest of the job will be done by the private sector. He insisted that it would not expand the government’s footprints.
In 1997, when Nawaz Sharif became prime minister for the second time, he had launched the ‘Mera Ghar’ Scheme, the biggest public sector housing scheme involving an expenditure of billions of rupees in three years. Under this scheme, the government had announced the construction of over 500,000 houses for low income groups over the next three years on 20,000 acres of state land, but the desired objectives could not be achieved.
After his ouster by General Pervaiz Musharraf, the contractors had gone to the courts and filed financial recovery suits.
Former prime minister Muhammad Khan Junejo had also launched the ‘Apni Basti’ project in 1987 to build 150,000 housing units, but eventually only 35,000 houses were constructed. The scheme had too many flaws, including unrealistic pricing, and unsuitable locations where there was no provision for water, power and gas. Eventually, people took away the doors and window frames from the houses, even the bricks.
Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had also launched ‘New Islamabad City’ in 1996 but this too faded away with huge public money going down the drain.
The ‘Apna Ghar’ scheme falls in the category of development work. The government has not yet taken the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms into confidence, which may raise the issues of proper planning and viability of the project.
The Ministry of Finance said that the government was serious in providing low cost housing to the common man and was promptly completing the paperwork. Dar had hoped that the company will be registered soon and recommendations of various working groups will be finalised early next week.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2013.
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