Naya Pakistan Housing Project: Govt may face several hurdles

ISLAMABAD: The success of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s newly launched Naya Pakistan Housing Project (NPHP) will depend on the availability of commercial banks’ financing, public demand and one-window operation to simplify the official procedures to facilitate the public, revealed an anecdotal survey carried out by Voice of Pakistan on Saturday.

Talking to Business Recorder, economists, experts and people from different walks of life said that the government conceived the project with ‘good intention’ but may face several hurdles as far as its implementation is concerned.

On Friday, the PM announced a subsidy of Rs 30 billion for NPHP, urging the construction industry and investors to “take advantage of the opportunity.” He further announced that the interest rate of 5 marla houses will be five per cent and for 10 marla houses it will be seven per cent.

Former advisor to Finance Ministry Dr Ashfaq Hassan Khan said the commercial banks might not be interested in financing the project due to low interest rate. “Even if they (banks) set aside 5 per cent of their portfolio for construction industry, which comes to around Rs 330 billion, who will avail this offer at a time when COVID-19 has pushed millions of people below the poverty line and the purchasing power of the public has drastically reduced?” he told Business Recorder.

He said one-window operation experience in Board of Investment (BOI) did not yield great results. “So who will ensure the success of one-window operation in NPHP?” Khan further said that the deadline of December 31 for availing this low-cost housing facility will also create hurdles due to limited time period. “But government has no choice due to the need to comply with FATF (Financial Action Task Force) as source of income will not be asked something that may come under FATF scrutiny.”

Ahmad Khan, a school teacher in the federal capital, said he wants to benefit from NPHP but due to his limited resources including a monthly income of hardly Rs 40,000, he cannot afford to avail this facility.

Muhammad Anwar, a shopkeeper in Blue Area, Islamabad, said “To build a house, I need to purchase land first. Neither can I afford to buy land nor the expense to build a house. Where should people like me go?”

On January 14, Senate unanimously passed “The Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority Bill, 2019,” for the purpose of planning, development, construction and management of real estate development schemes and projects, including housing, and – to pursue philanthropic and other objectives on profit and non-profit basis.

The bill landed in the Senate on December 13 last year, after being passed by the National Assembly on December 10, 2019.

Following its passage from both the houses, President Arif Alvi signed the bill into law.

On March 11, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated his resolve to construct five million housing units before the completion of his government’s tenure, while laying the foundation stone of 20,000 housing units in Islamabad.

Responding to criticism regarding delay in the construction of these houses which were promised by the PM shortly after the PTI came into power in August 2018, Khan said, “There was criticism everywhere. Everyone was asking where are the new houses? Where is the construction going on and all that? Even in the National Assembly, the lawmakers were asking where is Naya Pakistan? Now, everybody should know. The thing is; it is such a big project and it took us one-and-a-half year to establish the authority (Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority), set up a proper structure and complete all the related homework before going ahead with this project.”

This is not the first time the government has initiated a low-cost housing scheme for the less privileged segments of society. During the tenure of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) in power, Shehbaz Sharif, the then Chief Minister of Punjab, launched the Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme for “medium to low-income groups who cannot fulfill their dream of having their own roof over their heads.” However, the project was marred by reports of alleged corruption with the National Accountability Court (NAB) currently probing the case. On February 17, 2020, an accountability court indicted Shehbaz and others in Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Scheme.

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