- Will the economy be kickstarted?
Prime Minister Imran Khan seems to set great store by the construction industry’s ability to kickstart the apparently stalled economy. He devoted a national broadcast on Thursday to a personal announcement of the extension of an already announced package, which may indicate that the initial results have not been what were hoped, but that it must get more time. It is to be hoped that this time is to be given because the government still thinks it is a good idea, and not because it has run out of ideas. The facility of a fixed-tax regime has been extended for the entire year, to December 31 this year, while the facility of non-disclosure of the source of investment in this sector has been extended till June 30, indicating that this only applies for this tax year, and continuation would depend not just on the success of the measure, but how dim a view would be taken of it by the IMF, which is against subsidies such as this.
Another important beneficiary would be the government’s own housing schemes, as it struggles to fulfill its promise of providing five million housing units by 2023. It is also struggling to create 10 million new jobs, and is thus banking on its incentives to do both. If it can come close to even one of those goals, it would be an achievement. The government, Mr Khan disclosed, is already looking at 250,000 jobs and Rs 1.5 billion in economic activity from the Rs 150 million committed for new housing in Punjab alone. Housing and construction is one of the main drivers of the economy, no matter whether is in the third World or the First.
However, there seems to be a double standard at work somewhere. The PTI seems not to see the contradiction starting such schemes, and the protection it is giving to its own people, such as Senior Minister Aleem Khan, from NAB in housing schemes, with the tigerish NAB persecution of such PML(N) figures as Mian Shehbaz Sharif, and the Khawaja brothers, respectively over the Ashiana-i-Iqbal Housing Scheme, and the Paragon Housing Society. Members of the government should remember that one day they might be out of office, and their successors may be as anxious to put them away, and as desperate to put the worst possible construction on their actions, as they are today.