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Govt asked to end speculation in real estate

LAHORE: The government should ban sale of residential plots in housing societies and restrict developers from selling houses and apartments, to end speculation in real estate sector in the country.

Given the measures are taken, around 160 allied industries, which create employment and reduce demand supply gap in the housing sector, would become operational. These views were expressed by the discussants in Jang Economic Session on eBudget 2011-12- Priorities for Housing Sectorí, held here on Friday. The participants in the session included the chairman of Regional Standing Committee on Construction and Development, Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), Engineer Akber Sheikh, former chairman of Pakistan Industrial and Trader Association Front (PIAF) Irfan Qasir Sheikh, chairman of Regional Standing Committee on Housing and Cooperative FPCCI Capt (r) M A Farooqi and Ali Builders and Developers chairman Malik Zahid Mustafa.

The event was jointly hosted by Sikandar Hameed Lodhi and Intikhab Tariq. Akber Sheikh said there was shortage of over eight million houses in Pakistan, while every year demand increased by a half million. He said Pakistani housing industry had 500 billion rupees annual portfolio so that the government separately dealt with the housing and real estate sector in the budget.

He called for tax exemptions for housing sector in budget. He said builders should be restricted from constructing multi-storey buildings in their society. He said that private developers had learned a lot from their experiences and started construction of houses, and now the government should also come on this side. He appreciated the Punjab governmentís Aashyana Housing Scheme, saying that it would not be sufficient to meet the housing demands of the public.

Irfan Qasir termed progress of housing and construction sector crucial, for economic growth of country. He said that the construction sector could create huge employment opportunities in no time. He said construction sector contributed two per cent in the total GDP of the country. He said unskilled labor also earned Rs 500 to 600 per day from housing sector. Stressing the need for the government to develop skill-development board for housing sectorís unskilled labor, he said it would reduce the mark-up rates for industry.

M A Farooqi said that, after agriculture, housing and construction sector was the second largest employment generating sector of Pakistan. He said that by improving this sector, growth of 160 allied industry could be enhanced. He said that, in the next budget, the government had announced development of new housing societies in every district of country. It would stop urbanization in the country, he said, calling for government support for Cooperative Societies. He demanded cutting down stamp duty, CVT, and sales tax from housing sector.

Malik Zahid Mustafa said that the government had never considered the housing sector an industry, pushing it on the verge of collapse. He said there was a large number of small developers in Pakistan but the government was discouraging them. He said that, presently, housing societyís approval fee was two rupees per square feet but the government was not ready to approve them even for Rs 1000 per square feet.

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