ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan Wednesday launched PTI’s ambitious flagship “Naya Pakistan Housing Programme” aimed at building five million low-cost and affordable housing units across the country, fulfilling one of the “cornerstones” of his party’s election manifesto.

Speaking at the launching ceremony of the project at Prime Minister’s Office, Imran vowed to steer the country out of a looming balance-of-payments crisis. He said Pakistan needs $10-12 billion, which he dismissed as ‘not a major issue’. “We will get out of this. I will take (the country) out of this,” he added.

“We have two options: one, we can go to friendly countries and ask them to bridge this gap; and second, that we go to the IMF,” he said, adding that the government has decided to do “both”.

Imran encouraged citizens not to get frustrated. “This is a very small period. Our country is a rich country, it is blessed by Allah. This country will come out of crisis,” he said.

Allaying concerns of any economic meltdown, Imran said Pakistan was a strong resource-rich country, capable of facing any challenge, assuring that with the reforms initiated in all sectors better days were ahead.

Imran said “Nations do face ups and downs, go through difficult times, and I can assure you that in six months time you will look back and say this was nothing.”

He was reacting to the criticism his government had to face in the wake of decision to return to the International Monetary Fund for financial support and attributed it to the unprecedented borrowing of Rs30 trillion in loans, up from Rs6 trillion in the past ten years. “Had there been no corruption, money laundering and excessive borrowing, things would have been much different,” Imran said.

He said the PTI government faced a huge current account deficit of 18 billion dollars when it took over from the PML-N government. He said, on the contrary, the PML-N faced only a 3 billion dollars current account deficit from the PPP government in 2013.

“We only have to meet a short term requirement of 10 to 12 billion dollars and had the option to request friendly countries or go to the IMF,” he said and added the outcome of government’s decision to borrow would bear results in six months times.

He said corrective measures were being undertaken to improve the situation. He said other nations had faced much more difficult periods in their history, but “the structural reforms that we have undertaken would bring about a positive change and this hard time would be over. There is no need to worry. I promise to get you out of this tough period. Just bear with me.”

He said Pakistan was a resource-rich country and Balochistan alone had four minerals worth over $460 billion. He said a complete roadmap for optimally exploiting the resources was being prepared and assured the nation to take them into confidence regularly.

Imran said according to estimates the country was a victim of $10 billion money laundering annually and said only if this had been put under a check, the situation of country’s foreign exchange reserves would have been much better.

He pointed to the $20 billion of remittances and said almost an equivalent amount was entering the country through informal channels. He said only if this amount is sent through the regular banking channels, the forex reserves would have been in a better shape today.

Imran also vowed to boost the country’s exports from $20 billion to $30 billion and said a number of incentives were being given to different sectors to raise the quantum of exports.

He regretted that poor management in the past had brought the country to a critical stage and said Pakistan was a blessing of Allah and had all the potential to rise and his government was committed to turn the economy around.

About the housing programme, Imran said “We want to build houses for those who ordinarily do not even dream of owning a house, as they fall in low-income group and barely manage to find a shelter.”

He announced the government would provide land, facilitate and remove bottlenecks and work under public-private partnership to construct housing units with all basic amenities.

He said the data of federal or provincial lands is being collected and registered by a land bank so that the government could provide land for the housing programme to be undertaken by the private sector.

Vowing to personally supervise the project, he announced the setting up of a Naya Pakistan Housing Authority (NPHA) in 90 days. Meanwhile, the 17-member Housing Task Force would oversee the housing programme, he added.

The Housing Task Force consists of eight members from private sector, five from federal government including secretaries housing, law and justice, finance, planning, NADRA chairman and five provincial housing ministers, or their nominees.

The NPHA would provide a one-window operation and construct houses in both rural and urban areas, he said and added the Authority would coordinate with the local bodies and provincial governments.

Imran said the data of ‘kaachi abadis’ (slums) would also be collected. The estimates say that 40 percent land in Karachi and most precious land in Islamabad was encroached by such illegal housing, he added.

He said after reviewing international models, high rise buildings, having all basic facilities, would be constructed and the owners would have full property rights.

He announced the launch of pilot project under Naya Pakistan Housing Programme in seven districts, including Faisalabad, Sukkur, Quetta, DI Khan, Islamabad, Gilgit and Muzaffarabad, where NADRA would help collect the basic data of those in need of the housing through registration during the next 60 days.

He said the earlier schemes failed as those did not have the requisite basic data to work upon, adding the data would help find the requirements, the income level of the people and how much they could pay for the mortgage per month.

Imran announced the launch of first housing scheme under the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme for the federal government employees from Thursday and said data collection would start from tomorrow.

The federal government employees from BS 1 to 16 would be eligible for registration in the housing scheme undertaken through joint venture project. Preference would be given to those having no house of their own or were shelterless.

In the construction of housing units under the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme, use of local construction material, labour and technology transfer would be ensured.

Imran expressed the hope that the provinces, particularly Punjab, would also emulate the trend set in by the federal government. He said the construction industry was one of the most important sectors of the economy as over 40 other industries were related to it and added it was vital for reviving economic activity and employment generation.

He said a new young entrepreneur class would emerge and the government would ensure provision of necessary skills and training to unemployed youth. For that purpose skill teaching institutes would be established.

The prime minister mentioned the trend for borrowing of house building loans in other countries and said in the United States almost 80 percent people construct houses through loans, in Malaysia 33 percent, India 11 per cent, Bangladesh 3 percent, while in Pakistan only 0.25 percent.

He said the earlier housing projects failed to take off because the country had no financing packages and that the State Bank of Pakistan had been directed to set up a National Financial Regulatory Body in 60 days time. Necessary legal framework would also be prepared by the Ministry of Law and Justice within the stipulated time, he added.

Under the housing programme, those getting houses would be provided with a 15 to 20 years easy payment plan and the State Bank of Pakistan would encourage the commercial banks for financing.

He said that a foreign company has approached the relevant authorities in Pakistan expressing their desire to invest a huge amount of 20 billion dollars in the housing programme.

He said the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme would help stimulate economic growth besides creating employment opportunities, reviving the construction-related industries and bring in development and prosperity.

Having a total population of around 210 million, Pakistan had 30 million housing units with a shortfall of 10 million. Against an annual demand of 700,000 housing units, the country constructs only 250,000 houses with a shortfall of 450,000 houses per annum.



Imran vows economic turnaround in 6 months