Association of Builders and Developers of Pakistan (ABAD) Chairman Mohsin Sheikhani has said that despite security problems Pakistan is on a path of economic recovery, but any political instability can create major problems for the private sector.
Speaking to The Express Tribune in an interview, Sheikhani said that the country is already facing enormous problems and the situation demands for all to cooperate with each other and help generate employment opportunities in Pakistan.
ABAD – an association of over 700 builders and developers all over the country – is busy finalising the three-month long preparations for an international exhibition for the construction industry. The first of its kind event has attracted various national and international companies, it will be organised from August 12 to 14 at Karachi Expo Centre.
“Apart from showing potential of the construction industry, the main aim of this exhibition is to generate overall business activity in the country,” he said.
“We are confident that these business to business (b2b) and business to customer (b2c) interactions will help ABAD members in refining the image of the construction industry,” he added.
Corruption in government departments
More than one allotment of land from the government departments is a common instance and is a major reason why builders shy away from investments. There have been many examples in big cities where different government departments are helping land encroachers, thus creating problems for both builders and the government.
“One of the major hurdles in the development of the construction industry is the non-computerised land records that open doors to corruption of billions of rupees,” he said.
Sheikhani’s estimates are not incorrect.
In Karachi, according to Transparency International Pakistan, property registrars take bribes of Rs20,000 to Rs500,000 on each property registration. According to Business Recorder’s estimates, over 100 properties sold or purchased every day in each district of Karachi taking the city’s property registration annual sum of bribes to a whopping Rs15 billion.
Due to these discrepancies in land records, most of the banks do not extend housing finance, especially to the middle and lower middle class housing schemes, as they are unsure whether the land or property actually belongs to the person.
Discrepancy in new gas connections
Despite repeated commitments, the present government has failed in restoring the ban on new gas connections for the high-rise buildings, he said. About two years ago, the PPP–led government had put a ban on all new gas connections and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) – one of the two gas distribution companies in the country – is still following the ban.
According to Sheikhani, SSGC has given new gas connections to some high-rise buildings in Karachi despite the ban.
“The government needs to adopt a new policy on gas connections to high-rise buildings,” he stated. “If it believes that there is a need of switching to LPG then it should immediately introduce these measures to end current uncertainty in the industry.”
Commenting on the housing problem in big cities, ABAD Senior Vice Chairman Salim Kassim Patel said high-rise buildings are the only solution to high population in cities.
The government has two choices: either to let the current situation of housing shortage deteriorate or help facilitate the private sector to make high-rise buildings, he stressed.
Some people argue that these high-rise buildings are creating congestion and other problems in well-established areas of the big cities, he said. “I do not agree with this thought. I think high-rise buildings are the best alternatives to slums, which are expanding haphazardly in almost all the big cities and creating security problems.
“You cannot bring out people from slums unless you provide them an alternative. And the alternative is high-rise living.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2014.
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