–Khan says he will guide nation through all steps his govt will take to prevent economic meltdown
–Launches ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Project’ for less privileged people
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday tried to allay concerns regarding the deteriorating economic situation of Pakistan after the government announced that it would head to International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout.
The prime minister was addressing the launching ceremony of the five million housing project, named as ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Project’, promised by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in its election manifesto.
In an apparent attempt to allay concerns regarding an economic meltdown, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan was a strong resource-rich country capable of facing any challenge, assuring that with the reforms initiated in all sectors, better days were ahead.
The premier said that he will present a roadmap before the nation listing steps the government will take to stabilise the economy, adding that he will guide the nation every week on his government’s economic plans.
Assuring that the harsh times won’t last long, he asked the nation to stay strong. “There is nothing to worry about,” he said, adding that the economy will recover.
“Nations face ups and downs, go through difficult times, and I can assure you that in six months time, you will look back and say this was nothing,” he added.
He was reacting to the criticism his government had to face in the wake of the decision to return to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial support, and attributed it to the unprecedented borrowing of Rs 30 trillion in loans, up from Rs 6 trillion in the past 10 years.
“In the last 48 hours, an impression has been created as if the sky is going to fall or the day of judgement is upon us,” the prime minister said.
He said that the previous PML-N government had started its term with a $3 billion current account deficit, but the 40-day-old PTI government inherited an $18bn current account deficit.
On the IMF bailout, the premier said that Pakistan will approach the Fund as there is a deficit of $10-12 billion to pay its loans and purchase imports in the short term. “We are also seeking help from friendly countries.”
He reiterated that the government is seeking funds from external sources only for the short term, as the economic reforms and austerity measures initiated by his government will take six months to show results.
Talking about possible recourses to bridge the deficit, PM Khan said the total amount laundered out of Pakistan annually, according to the US State Department, is $10 billion.
“So if we had curbed money laundering in the past, we wouldn’t have to pursue loans today,” he said.
The country also wouldn’t have to knock on the Fund’s door if the government managed to convince overseas Pakistanis to send $20 billion in remittances through banking channels, he said.
He said that the incentives given by his government can also lead to exports rising by $10 billion from a current $20 billion.
“Pakistan is a wealthy country. The only misfortune is that there has been a lack of good management,” he added.
He said Pakistan was a resource rich country and Balochistan alone had four minerals worth over $ 460 billion.
NAYA PAKISTAN HOUSING PROJECT:
Announcing the launch of the housing scheme, the premier said that five million houses will be constructed over the next five years under the ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Project’.
“We want to build houses for those who ordinarily do not even dream of owning a house, as they fall in low-income group and barely manage to find a shelter,” Imran Khan said.
The premier, vowing that he will supervise the project himself, expressed confidence that the programme would not only provide affordable housing to the poor but also create employment opportunities in the country.
The project will also attract local and foreign investment, he said.
“A special housing authority would be established in three months to serve as one window for all construction-related formalities. A task force would look after the housing project until then,” he added.
A National Financial Regulatory Body would also be set up in two months to remove hurdles in the financing of construction of houses, the premier announced.
The prime minister said the government would remove obstacles to home ownership and that this would include working with the Law Ministry to draft legislation to make this possible.
“Our target is to build five million homes in five years. The homes are to be made for the common man, who earns Rs10,000 to 25,000 a month,” said PM Khan.
Registration for the houses will begin from Thursday with the cooperation of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), which has been tasked with collecting data to identify those in need.
Reports, however, said that registration for the houses does not entail allotment rather it will only identify those in need.
Areas, where low-cost houses can be built, will also be identified. The private sector has reportedly been made part of the housing project to give recommendations on completing the project in five years.
In its initial stages, the mega-project will be launched in seven cities, including Muzaffarabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Gilgit-Baltistan, Dera Ismail Khan, Faisalabad and Islamabad.
The prime minister said that the data of the ‘kaachi abadis’ (slums) would also be collected and added estimates say that 40 per cent land in Karachi and most precious land in Islamabad were encroached due to illegal construction. He said that after reviewing international models, high-rise buildings, having all basic facilities would be constructed and the owners would have full property rights.
He expressed the hope that the provinces, particularly Punjab, would also emulate the trend set in by the federal government.
Imran Khan said that the construction industry was one of the most important sectors of society as over 40 other industries were related to it. He added that said it was vital for reviving economic activity and employment generation.
The prime minister mentioned the trend for the borrowing of house building loans in other countries and said that in the Unites States, almost 80 per cent people construct houses through loans, in Malaysia 33 per cent, India 11 per cent, Bangladesh 3 per cent, while in Pakistan only 0.25 per cent.