ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday launched his government’s flagship low-cost housing project that envisages building five million homes in a country where at least ten million people are homeless, according to the World Bank.
Under the Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme, 135,000 houses will be built in the first phase, 110,000 of them for fishermen in the southwestern Balochistan province, and 25,000 for government employees in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
Khan was inspired to launch the project when he heard about a government employee who committed suicide after he learnt that the only way his family could retain their government-allocated residence was if he died while still in government service.
“That man jumped off a building the next day,” the prime minister said at the launch ceremony for the housing scheme. “It was then that I realised how difficult it is for the salaried class to gather funds needed for building houses."
The prime minister said five million homes was an ambitious target “but the good news is that investors are queuing up to come in and we are also trying to bring in the private sector.”
“I am very clear in my vision, and that is to bring underprivileged people out of poverty,” he said.
Khan, who was elected to office last year, made lofty campaign promises including that he would create 10 million jobs, bring Pakistanis out of homelessness and establish an “Islamic welfare state” modelled on the ideas first voiced by the Prophet Mohammad in the holy city of Medina.
Creating 10 million jobs would require the economy to grow at 8 percent. Last month, the central bank said Pakistan’s economic growth was set to slow to between 3.5-4.0 percent in the 2019 fiscal year from 5.2 percent in 2018.
Inflation was over 9.4 per cent in March, its highest since November 2013, with strong increases in food and energy, the two most sensitive items for most consumers.
Khan said the housing project would help generate jobs as slum areas were replaced with high rise buildings and commercial centres. He said a Chinese company specializing in prefabricated houses was ready to help build flats in slums and had the capability to complete an entire floor in one week.
“We will give them land, they will swiftly construct flats, and all slums will get converted,” he said.
Finance Minister Asad Umar said the housing project would play an important role in reviving the country’s struggling economy.
He said a revolving fund of five billion rupees had been set up to extend micro credit of up to 20 billion rupees to aspiring homeowners and private banks were being encouraged to grant maximum loans for the project.
“We are giving tax incentives to banks that will give loans for the low-cost housing project,” Umar said in his address at the launch. “The project will help fulfill the promise of the government of generating ten million jobs.”