ISLAMABAD: Issuing directives for establishment of a real estate regulatory body, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday asked the provinces to prepare a road map for a one-window facility and online approval of cases relating to construction and housing sectors.
Presiding over a meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Housing, Construction and Development, the prime minister directed the provincial chief secretaries to submit within week a road map for launching a one-window facility and online approval of permits, fee payments and parallel working of all departments related to the housing sector.
“Make approvals like no objection certificate and others within a stipulated time, and the officials showing negligence or creating unnecessary hurdles must be dealt with strictly,” he ordered.
A source told Dawn that the country’s real estate tycoons and the Association of Builders and Developers had expressed reservations over formation of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority and the government was trying to address their concerns.
Asks for improving internet facility in backward areas
The meeting was attended by Information Minister Shibli Faraz, special assistants to the prime minister Malik Amin Aslam, retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa and Dr Shahbaz Gill, Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority chairman retired Lt Gen Anwar Ali Haider, the State Bank of Pakistan governor, secretary housing and chief secretaries of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan. The chief secretaries of Balochistan and Sindh, additional chief secretary of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and presidents of the National Bank of Pakistan and Khyber Bank participated in the meeting through video link.
The prime minister said the government had given an unprecedented incentives package for the construction industry to accelerate the economic activity, promote allied industries and provide housing facility to the common man, particularly the low-income groups. The government, he said, was resolved to ease the processes in this regard to ensure that maximum number of people benefited from the facility.
Prime Minister Khan emphasised the need for utilisation of information technology at all levels in the construction sector to make it swifter and easier.
For promotion of the mortgage facility for construction of low-cost houses for the low-income groups, he directed the finance ministry and the State Bank to finalise the process of providing subsidy to banks to remove hassles.
The Lahore Development Authority chairman briefed the meeting on the LDA City project under the Naya Pakistan Housing Programme.
The Sindh chief secretary told the meeting that as per the prime minister’s directive, the ratio of taxes had been reduced in the province bringing it on a par with those in Punjab and KP.
The chief secretaries of Punjab and KP briefed the meeting on the measures taken by their respective provinces to facilitate the construction industry like the launch of portal and establishment of e-Sahulat centres.
At a separate meeting, Prime Minister Khan issued directives for improving the internet facility in backward areas of the country to take full advantage of potential of the country’s youth.
“Availability of internet and its vast coverage are vital for utilising potential of the youth in real sense and to ensure easy access to education,” he said while chairing a meeting at the Prime Minister Office to enhance and improve the coverage of internet in the country.
“Provision of internet has become a need in present time,” he added.
The prime minister directed the Universal Service Fund (USF) to take necessary steps to provide easy and cheaper internet facility in schools.
The prime minister was apprised that the USF was paying special focus on laying an optic fibre to ensure provision of better internet services. The meeting was informed that 1,800km-long fiber optic had been laid in various parts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa over the past two years, while 4,600km fiber optic would be laid in 547 union councils this year.
Talking about the incentives being given to the telecom sector, the prime minister formed a committee comprising his adviser on finance Dr Hafeeez Shaikh, Minister for Defence Production Zubaida Jalal, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, Minister for Information Technology Syed Aminul Haq and Minister for Federal Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood to present its recommendations regarding improvement of internet facility and its reach to far-flung areas of the country.
Afghan trade through Gwadar Port
At another meeting held to review the performance of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, the prime minister was informed that the government had started Afghan trade from the newly constructed Gwadar Port.
PM Khan directed that all projects related to the Gwadar Port be completed within the stipulated time and said that due to its geographical location the port would play an import role in progress and economic uplift of the country.
Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi presented a detailed briefing on the 22-month performance of his ministry and said that despite several problems inherited from the last government, a number of initiatives had been taken by the ministry.
The meeting was informed that the country had a huge potential of “blue economy”, but unfortunately the sector was ignored in the past. It was told that the present government was devising a road map for progress and uplift of this sector.
Keeping in view the sector’s potential and importance, the prime minister declared 2020 as “the year of blue economy”.
“The meeting was apprised of several projects related to Gwadar Port and that the government has started Afghan trade from the port,” said a press release issued by the PM Office.
The achievements of the maritime affairs ministry highlighted by Mr Zaidi included provision of facilities to investors under a the shipping policy-2019, retirement of Rs4.7 billion debts, inclusion of two new oil tankers in the official fleet, auction of vehicles under PM’s austerity drive, functioning of a new jetty at Boat Basin, shortlisting of 11 private companies for a dry and bulk cargo terminal, recovery of Rs2.2bn, record increase in the profit of the Port Qasim Authority (PQA) over the last two years, cargo handling of 270 vessels/ships despite the coronavirus situation, planting of one million mangrove plants under the PM’s Green Pakistan vision, completion of a study for master plan of the PQA, establishment of new terminals and restoration and improvement of infrastructure.
Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2020