Govt Housing Policy A Sigh of Relief Indeed

The oldest and simplest justification for government is as protector: protecting citizens from violence. Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan describes a world of unrelenting insecurity without a government to provide the safety of law and order, protecting citizens from each other and from foreign foes. The horrors of little or no government to provide that function are on global display in the world’s many fragile states and essentially ungoverned regions. And indeed, when the chaos of war and disorder mounts too high, citizens will choose even despotic and fanatic governments, such as the Taliban and ISIS, over the depredations of warring bands.The idea of government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails; and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break. Regarding foreign threats, government as protector requires the ability to meet and treat with other governments as well as to fight them. The concept of government as provider comes next: government as provider of goods and services that individuals cannot get individually. A government in this conception is the solution to collective action problems, the medium through which citizens create public goods that benefit everyone, but that are also subject to free-rider problems without some collective compulsion. A more expansive concept of government as provider is the social welfare state: government can cushion the inability of citizens to provide for themselves.

Housing is a fundamental need whose provision can ensure a minimum standard of welfare for a family unit. Indeed, it has been recognized as such through the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and its reaffirmation at the 1996 UN Habitat Conference through the “Adequate Shelter for All” slogan. In the context of such cannons and conventions, the indicators on Pakistani housing paint a dire picture.In Pakistan Housing for all remains a dream unfulfilled, chiefly due to the lack of a policy push and an excessive involvement of investment hoppers in the housing and real estate business.

Even before election PM Imran Khan revealed that they will build 5 million low cost affordable houses throughout Pakistan during next five years, if elected. After becoming the Prime Minister he started his work plan in order to accomplish his pledge. Prime Minister Imran Khan constituted a committee to execute the government’s affordable housing scheme. Under the housing scheme, the government will construct five million low-cost houses. Chairing a meeting earlier, Prime Minister Imran directed the committee to submit its initial recommendations within a week. The prime minister emphasised that the private sector should be encouraged and maximum facilitation must be extended to those who would be partnering with the government for the project.

Imran Khan said that the construction sector is guarantee of bringing in economic revolution in the country. He further told that they will undertake work of infrastructure including provision of water, electricity and gas as the target of construction of five million low cost house is a big challenge but we will aggressively pursue this target as we want to provide jobs to thousands of unemployed youths of the county. The demand of houses in Pakistan is very high and the construction of 5 million houses will not only boost construction sector but also bring boom to other almost 100 allied industries.

The plan of current government to introduce One Window operation for construction sector so that no bureaucrat can dare to take kick backs and builders and developers will be able to do business easily without hindrances from bureaucrats. Prime Minister Imran Khan recently chaired a meeting to review the progress of developing a road-map for the five million houses scheme in the country. The meeting was held at the Prime Minister’s Office. Secretary housing briefed the premier on the ongoing demand and shortfall in the housing sector. He also presented various options regarding availability of land, required finances and how they can be raised. The secretary briefed the PM on the administrative and legal measures required to encourage the private sector and foreign investors towards the initiative.“The PM, in his remarks, said that provision of five million houses, equipped with all basic facilities, and regularisation of slums is the foremost priority of the government”. The affordable housing would not only provide shelter to the homeless, but also generate massive economic turnaround by generating employment opportunities and boosting associated industries.

As Pakistan experiences rapid population growth, the need for low-cost housing units is greater than ever before. While official estimates put the shortage at 10 million units, which increases every year, funds required to finance the gap are a whopping $180 billion – almost half the size of Pakistan’s economy. According to a research reported by a section of the media, only 1 per cent of the housing units developed annually cater to 68 per cent of Pakistan’s total population, comprising of people who earn a maximum monthly income of Rs30, 000. Meanwhile, it is also said that 56 per cent of the housing units constructed during the year caters to a market representing 12 per cent of Pakistan’s population that earns above Rs100, 000.

Like other South Asian countries, Pakistan is faced with huge shortage of houses due to ever increasing population growth, which need concrete and corrective measures on emergent basis otherwise this shortfall is expected to swell up to 20 million residential units by the end of 2025. In order to cope with this challenge, Pakistan needed to ensure construction of one million new residential units in the housing sector every year but currently, the country’s pace on this count was as low as 150,000 to 200,000 new houses per annum. 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. Earlier PM 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.

Published in Melange Intl. Magazine September 2018.

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