Sunday, October 14, 2018
By Saeed Qureshi
Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced construction of 5 million houses or dwellings in Pakistan over a period of five years. Truthfully, such huge number of houses cannot be built even in fifty years. It is not an easy task as these gigantic projects might need at least ten years for planning, arrangement of funds, selection of the locations, preparing of the designs, selection of the contractors and so on.
One may also imagine that it might take quite a long time to determine who would the needy and deserving. It may happen that merely brokers and middle men who might simply take possession of the houses through poor people and then sell those at higher prices. It is yet to be determined and found out whether this colossal number of dwellings would be needed or not.it would be difficult to ascertain that those people who are identified as homeless and living in rundown places would be deserving these houses. But how they would be able to pay the cost or the prices of the house as most of these people are perceived to be resourceless and poverty stricken. It is another matter than the government allots these houses free of cost to the penniless, poor and the mendicants. Yet one can imagine thefinancial burden on the national exchequer.
It might be preferable if the government allots plots and lands to the homeless freely and they can later build the houses on their own either by spending their savings or taking loans from the banks and the loaning agencies. But procurement of loans for the houses would be a tall order as the loaning agencies and banks would not dole out loans without safe guarantees and after undertaking due procedures that the allotters would be able to pay back the loaned money over a period of time. As such the government should also look into providing jobs to the homeless in order to enable them to pay for the cost of the houses that would certainly put a heavy burden on the national exchequer.
To build 5 million houses in five years is certainly an impossible and unattainable goal. It would be rather better if the government provides jobs and legitimate sources of income like small businesses and vocations that can bring money to pay the loans. But first providing jobs and then building the house would be a double jeopardy on the national economy as even the most economically advanced countries would not be able to attain and accomplish such a gubernatorial task and undertaking.
Per say, if the government loses the majority in the parliament or is faced with demonstrations and huge rallies for mishaps and misdeeds that the opposition parties would be planning, then the mega and super-duper housing project would have to be abandoned half way. That possibility is very bright and the time might prove that as well.
If the PTI government is exploiting the attraction and urge of the homeless for owning house to win in the next term, then this gamble might not fructify. The PTI government is not going to have a smooth sailing and peaceful governance for a variety of reasons, one of which is that what goes around comes around.
In the backdrop of these serious challenges and pitfalls outlined above, the best recourse and way-out for PTI government is to build community homes and multi housing blocs and big buildings for the homeless. They should be given a job or provide reasonable source of earing either to be able to build their own house or be able to pay for the rent of the apartment in a multi-storey complex or building. Providing residences in government managed complexes and multi-story- buildings would be a better choice than building individual full-fledged houses.
There would be crooks and phony people who would take the house by posing as a homeless or someone living in the open places as homeless. Such deceptive demands and the fake people have to be checked but apparently it might be difficult for this exercise to be totally flawless and foolproof.
Instead of building and providing five million houses, the PTI government can create jobs for five million poor people. It would lessen the poverty as well as the sense of humiliation and deprivation of being homeless. It would be safer, better and objective strategy If after getting a job a person may like to buy a house or vacant piece of land to build a house. It should be ensured that a person provided with the job doesn’t claim to be homeless. However, those who cannot do a job because of old age or disability, he or she may be provided a modest. House.
The government may detect fraudulent practices on the part of the phony buyers then it would have to initiate inquiries and punitive and judicial remedies that might put additional burden on the national exchequer and might be prolonged for an indefinite period. It would boil down to wild goose chase as all the cheating and fraudulent practices may not be proven to award punishment or award of penalties.
The intention of the PTI government is good to eliminate the homelessness but there can be better ways, one of which is to give way loans for the people to buy land and go on their own to build the house. Or else it should be left to the leading construction companies, builders and contractors to create colonies in various parts of Pakistan to build the houses for the needy people. The government can pay the cost of land and construction to the contractors which can be recovered from those who are provided the jobs or who can physically work. The only check that the government will have to make is that the houses were actually built and given to the really needy and genuinely homeless people.
The failure of building 5 million houses in Pakistan would negatively imping upon the PTI for winning next elections in Pakistan. As such the government should simply oversee how the construction firms built the houses and allot those to the real and deserving citizens. The PTI government should not move in a hurry as building of countless houses is not catching a hen or arranging a garden party. It would be a kind of project that nowhere else in the world has happened. Safeguards and necessaries fulfillment of a whole lot of conditions are essential for the allotment to the deserving homeless people and then ensure how they would pay back the cost. If these would be providing free then it is another matter but look at the financial burden under which the national exchequer and economy would come under.
Finally, building of housing colonies is not the biggest issue but the removal of poverty is one of the real challenges in Pakistan. Then comes the elimination of bribery and financial corruption. Making Pakistan economically robust is another challenge that might not happen in five years period. The PTI government has to address the health, education, civic mess, mismanagement, building and renovating roads and highway, weeding out corruption and malfunctioning from the government departments. It has to curb the religious and sectarian feuds and animosities. It means creation of a modern state and the society that one can see in Turkey, South Korea Indonesia, Malaysia, Sweden, Holland, Austria and so on. Just follow and take queue from their systems.