Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday appealed to development experts, urban planners and builders to devise mass housing schemes that would cater to the needs of millions of downtrodden and shelter-less people. The prime minister also called upon builders and planners to “come up with a concept of creating new cities” to fulfill the country’s massive housing needs.
“Only around 10 per cent of some 40 million families in Pakistan have their own houses. We have to take care of the downtrodden that work hard but have no shelter,” PM Nawaz said in remarks at the concluding session of a two-day International Conference on ‘Affordable Housing and Mortgage Finance’.
The premier – who was briefed about a proposed scheme for constructing 500,000 housing units for low income groups– said keeping in view the country’s population of nearly 200 million it was a very small scheme and should be expanded.
“It is very difficult for a poor man, who works hard to feed his family members, to purchase even a small piece of land to build a house for his children. There are many people in cities and villages, who do not have their own houses and we have to take care of them,” he said.
The premier said places should be identified outside the big cities for large housing schemes so that the government could allocate or acquire them for the purpose.
In addition to enlisting the help of banks, he said, the government could also offer subsidies for such projects. Eighteen years ago, he recalled that his party had launched a mega housing scheme for low income groups. But the scheme fell through when his PML-N-led government was toppled in October 1999.
Nawaz said experts should deliberate on this subject and come up with concrete recommendations and proposals, which could later be presented to him for approval.
“There are vast chunks of state land across the country. The new cities should be created, as our religion also calls for it,” Nawaz said, adding that his government would make all out efforts to achieve this goal.
Speaking at the occasion, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said this subject was very close to the heart of the PM and the government was also working on it.
“The housing industry needs to be revitalised as it will not only help remove the shortage of houses but will also spur GDP growth through enhanced industrial and economic activity,” he said.
Talking about mortgage financing, the minister said the issue of foreclosure was very serious and the existing law under the Financial Institutions (Recovery of Finances) Ordinance 2001 needed to be rectified through amendment in the ordinance.
He also mentioned government’s initiatives such as the setting up of Mortgage Refinance Company with a capital of Rs1.2 billion, as well as launching of the Housing Finance Credit Guarantee Scheme.
“The government will introduce special schemes in housing, agriculture and aviation sectors in the forthcoming budget to be presented on June 5, 2015,” he said.
State Bank of Pakistan Governor Ashraf Mahmood Wathra and Deputy Governor Saeed Ahmad also addressed the participants and highlighted the objectives of the conference, as well as the deliberations made during the two-day moot.
The conference was attended by experts from Canada, Malaysia, France, the UAE and Bangladesh.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2015.
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