Egyptian billionaire offers to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan

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The $2 billion Eighteen project launched in 2017 will be ready by year 2021. (Photo illustration by Eighteen)
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Pakistan’s housing sector offers great opportunities for investment due to rising demand. (AN photo)
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A view of under construction housing project in port city of Karachi. The demand for new housing unit is increasing with the growing population. (AN photo)
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Tarek Hamdy, CEO of Elite Estates, says the Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is ready to build affordable housing units in Pakistan. (AN photo)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Egyptian billionaire offers to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan

  • Plan to construct 5mn housing units requires Rs17tr, State Bank says
  • Group is already investing in a housing project in Islamabad

KARACHI: Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has offered to build 100,000 housing units in Pakistan to help realize Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dream of an ‘ambitious’ housing project, officials said on Friday.
“Naguib Sawiris has expressed his will to invest in 100,000 units of affordable housing to help prime minister (Imran Khan) in his vision toward Pakistan,” Tarek Hamdy, Chief Executive officer of Elite Estates — a partnership between Ora Developer and Saif Holding — told Arab News in an exclusive interview. 
Owned by Sawiris, Ora Developers is already engaged in the construction of a multibillion-dollar housing scheme named ‘Eighteen’ which was launched in 2017 in Islamabad with local partners, Saif Group and Kohistan Builders.
Sawiris’ first investment in Pakistan was in Mobilink, a cellular operator.
PM Khan in October 2018 had launched ‘Naya’ (New) Pakistan Housing Project in line with his party’s election manifesto, which promised fivr million houses for the poor.
Hamdy says they have “set rules or guidelines of the way of doing things” that apply to every real estate projects — whether they are affordable or high value units.
“We will use our experience and knowhow to deliver this properly to the people of Pakistan,” he added.
Since the announcement of the low-cost housing project for the poor, the scheme has been at the heart of all political and economic discourses with several calling it too ambitious.
“This scheme is very ambitious yet very promising for the people of Pakistan. I think all the developers should help in this scheme. You cannot solely rely on the government to build five million houses,” Hamdy said. 
Recently, the governor of Pakistan’s central bank had said that the massive housing project would require financing of upto Rs 17 trillion.
Hamdy believes that the promise of building five million affordable housing units cannot be realized in a short span of time. “I think the plan is right but it has to be in stages, has to be in steps. It could be achievable obviously that is not the project (to be achieved) in one or two years... may take few good years, may be couple of decades to be achieved,” he said.
In the Islamabad project the Ora Developers own a 60 percent stake in the project comprising a five-star hotel, 1,068 housing units, 921 residential apartments, business parks, hospitals, schools and other educational facilities and 13 office buildings, and a golf course. The networth of the project is $2 billion.
The next cities on the radar for real estate projects are Lahore, Karachi, and Faisalabad. “We intend to do more, we intend to invest more. I think that our portfolio of real estate could come to $10 billion worth of investments in the next five to 10 years including all the projects that we intent to do,” Hamdy said.
Pakistan’s housing sector is marred by frauds, scams and unfinished schemes which has been discouraging many potential investors from venturing into the sector. However, Hamdy says he is confident of delivering the promise by 2021.
Analysts say that Pakistan’s housing sector offers great opportunities for investment due to increasing demand. “According to estimates, the current real estate market value is around Rs900 billion which is three times that of the GDP,” Saad Hashmey, an analyst at Topline Securities, told Arab News, adding that the PM’s housing project is the need of the hour.
Pakistan faces a shortage of nearly 12 million housing units that may require a massive investment of around $180 billion, according to the former Chairman of the Association of Builders and Developers, Arif Yousuf Jeewa.
Pakistan expects to attract more than $40 billion foreign direct investment in the next five years in oil refining, petrochemical, mining, renewable energy, and real estate sectors. “We estimate that roughly around $40 billion investment will be made by three countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and China) during the next three to five years,” Pakistan Board of Investment BoI chief, Haroon Sharif had told Arab News earlier, adding that “the investment would start materializing within the next two years”.


‘The magic will come’: First Pakistani filmmaker at Cannes hopes to light the way for others

Updated 51 min 15 sec ago
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‘The magic will come’: First Pakistani filmmaker at Cannes hopes to light the way for others

  • Iram Parveen Bilal is part of the Cinefondation’s Atelier program which picks 15 directors with “particularly promising” projects
  • ‘Wakhri’ is about the accidental social media star “who learns the harsh cost of wearing masks in the real world,” Bilal says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani filmmaker Iram Parveen Bilal, who made history last week as the first director of a feature film from the South Asia nation to be invited to the glamorous Cannes Film Festival, said she wished to “keep the hope alive” for other Pakistanis wanting to make their mark at international cinema events.
Last year, Pakistan’s best known film actress Mahira Khan made her debut at Cannes. Before her, the only other Pakistani artist to attend the festival was Adnan Siddiqui who took the film ‘A Mighty Heart’ to the event in 2008 with Hollywood bigwigs Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Now Bilal has made it to the festival as part of the prestigious Cinefondation L’Atelier program that picks 15 directors with “particularly promising projects” for a seven-day intensive fast track finance program. The program has a 93 percent financing and distribution success rate.
“It is surreal, it is the world’s biggest stage for cinema,” Bilal told Arab News in an interview, answering a question about what it felt like to attend Cannes. “I’m humbled and really honored to be included in a prestigious official selection of the festival. To be honest, I’m still a bit numb and processing it.”
But then she added: “If you’re honest and rooted as an artist, the magic will come. That’s the magic we all strive to create.”
Bilal’s project ‘Wakhri,’ the Urdu word for ‘different,’ is about an accidental social media star “who learns the harsh cost of wearing masks in the real world.”
“The film deals with themes like hypocrisy, trolling and the ultimate empowerment of self,” Bilal said.
Bilal has been directing films for over 10 years. Her first feature film ‘Josh’ was the very first Pakistani film to land on streaming giant Netflix and is also part of the permanent selection in the US Library of Congress.
Born to academic parents, and an environmental sciences engineer herself, she is the first in her family to deviate from the scientific path into the “wild west of the entertainment industry.”
The Cinefondation L’Atelier program, of which Bilal’s Wakhri is a part, has a 93 percent financing and distribution success rate, the filmmaker said.
“The general manager of the program watched my work at the Locarno Film Festival’s film library and had been tracking me,” Bilal said. The GM then met Abid Merchant, Wakhri’s producer, and the pair were invited to apply to the program.
In addition to being a part of the Cinefondation L’Atelier group, Bilal also spoke at Cannes on a ‘Storytellers and the Creative Process’ panel where she got to engage with early career filmmakers and students and spoke about her approach to filmmaking.
Cannes has recently come under fire for its under-representation of women filmmakers and directors, but Bilal said she tried to ignore the “depressing” statistics.
“I just focus on possibilities and on realizing that I have been fortunate enough to be a trail blazer and perhaps, even in this case, we can somehow go against the odds and achieve something very unexpected,” the Pakistani director said.
“It is humbling and I hope my participation will open doors for many more to come from our country.”
Bilal said Pakistan had so much filmmaking talent but little to no access.
“It has taken me years of building my work and a network to get to this point. I hope this leverages for people coming up the ranks right behind me,” the filmmaker said. “I take representing Pakistan very seriously. If we are as professional and committed as we can be, we keep the hope alive for others coming behind us as well.”