Author : Muhammad Shakil Naz
Providing accommodation to all its employees is the official responsibility of the Government of Pakistan. For this purpose each Government department has its own residential colonies, built and maintained involving huge amount of funds. The facts on ground are that the official accommodation is available to less than half of the employees. Therefore, need to build more houses in large scale exists all the time. Sparing funds every year to add new houses in the official accommodation pool is an important issue in the annual budgets. But the serious issue is to provide funds for maintenance of the official accommodation. The maintenance funds are allocated as per scale for each type of accommodation but utilized disproportionately leading to rapid deterioration of large number of houses. Maintenance funds allocated each year for all Government departments may not be available as a single figure, but it can be obtained through extensive research of the budget figure. I believe that the entire nation would be awed if this consolidated figure is brought to their knowledge. Let’s not be sarcastic about it and allow me to share my personal observations during my long stays in UK and France. The objective of this article is to roll the ball for every reader to hit and comment on the practicality of implementing in Pakistan the models adopted in the developed nations. It is worth mentioning that similar arrangements do exist in other countries but this article is based only on what I personally observed in UK and France.
Like almost all countries of the world, the Government employees, both military personnel and civilians, are entitled to Government maintained accommodation. In UK and France, the Governments have allowed the private companies to build houses/flats as per specifications provided by the Government in almost all big and small cities and towns. No funds are provided by the Government to build and maintain these houses/flats. Each Government employee is issued an entitlement letter by their respective departments. The employees then take this letter to the onsite management of the nearest colonies built by private companies for this purpose. The accommodation principally should always be available and the employee gets the accommodation against his/her entitlement. Upon transfer of the employee to another city/town, the similar procedure is followed at the new duty station. For providing this facility, the companies get the monthly rent directly from the Government. It is important to note that Government does not pay for the vacant accommodation. In UK and France, the same accommodation built by the private sector is also offered to the private sector organizations but not to any individual in his/her personal capacity. This flexibility to accommodate a mix of Government and private sector employees facilitates the house building companies to optimally and profitably get the return on their investment.
If the above mentioned concept is implemented in Pakistan, then following is a non-exhaustive list of advantages:
- Saving of huge amount of funds every year for construction of new houses and maintenance of old ones.
- No issue of disproportionate utilization of allocated maintenance funds.
- Huge savings of funds involved to maintain the organizational infrastructure for new construction and maintenance departments.
- More employees shall be accommodated without spending of any Government funds except the monthly rent amount which the Government has to pay in any case. This amount will be much less than what is being paid for the existing arrangements.
- Construction of community halls, mosques, hospitals/dispensaries, schools/colleges, sports grounds, commercial markets etc. can be made conditional to be part of colonies built for this purpose. It is pertinent to mention that these facilities are not necessarily part of such facilities built in UK and France because there these facilities are already available and accessible to their people.
- House Building sector and the linked industries in the country will flourish and large number of new jobs shall be created.
- The executives of each Government department shall be free from this part of their responsibilities sparing them time to focus more on their operational responsibilities.
If most of us think this a good idea then there comes a big question in everybody’s mind that who will bell the cat? If this idea in thrown in the Government’s court then rest assured that ribbons of the files containing papers on this ideas shall be opened only ceremoniously to make briefs for incoming/outgoing executives. This phenomenon is not specific to Pakistan as most the bureaucracies in the world have common genetic signatures. So what should be done?
In my view, some big construction companies like DHA and Bahria Town should voluntarily come forward. They should formally study the idea and make feasibility reports. If found feasible then they should obtain principal approval by the Government as an assurance that colonies built for this purpose shall be utilized as planned. Other big, medium and small companies will also jump into the band wagon when the music gets melodious.
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