ABDUL RASHEED AZAD
ISLAMABAD: Though the country is facing inadequate housing facilities but there is no significant shortage as being portrayed by media and politicians, revealed a Pakistan Institute of Development Economic (PIDE) study.
Dr Durre Nayab, pro-vice-chancellor PIDE, while sharing her research study titled, “The Assumed Shortage of Housing in Pakistan” with some interesting results here on Monday at Research for Social Transformation and Advancement (RASTA) program, said sadly Pakistan’s housing shortage numbers are based on totally fabricated assumption and the government considering these assumptions correct has initiated a large public housing effort at considerable cost.
She said: “We are short of 10 million housing units” has been a buzzword in politics, media, and donor-driven research for the last 10 years. Given an average household size of well over six persons, this means that nearly one-third of the population is without housing.
She said that ground realities also practically reject the above over estimated housing shortage-related figures as in Pakistan one cannot see such a huge number of people living on footpaths, on the sides of roads, under bridges, or in any open area. It is not clear from where this number came from, she added.
Worryingly, the government also uses this estimate without ever questioning its validity, ignoring the negative spill over effects on the other sector in the context of tight fiscal space. So, PIDE after digging out the reality concludes that there is certainly not a “deficit of 10 million housing units” in Pakistan. There may be “inadequate housing” in the country, but not “housing shortage”. The deficit is in the quality of life in the houses, not the absence of housing units, she concluded.
The PIDE’s research moot comprised diverse research themes, including energy issues, urban development, technology, and public service delivery, social sector development, markets and regulation, the political economy of development and reform, and sludge - the administrative burden.
The conference was inaugurated by Dr Nadeemul Haque, vice-chancellor (VC) PIDE and Chairman RAC referred to one of his papers “Developing Research and a Research Culture: Results from a Pilot Project in Pakistan” as the genesis for the RASTA program.
He said that the “enlightenment movement” was nothing but the exchange of ideas among the great intellectuals of the time. Even Marx wrote that ideas bring change. However, ideas must be indigenous. Without exchange, ideas do not refine, and without refinement reaching a conclusive solution becomes exceedingly difficult.
The PIDE VC apprised the participants that we still have not been able to free ourselves from the colonial clutches. Our research is primarily driven by actors that are alien to our situation. Outsiders are driving our research, with perhaps the vested agendas. Though, the onus is on Pakistani researchers as most of them are silent spectators and they should raise question.
He said that the PIDE’s RASTA is one such platform where it has provided the space for our local researchers to come up with innovative ideas and local solutions. Through RASTA, we have also proved that we can do better than those who steer local research from outside.
Dr Faheem Jehangir Khan, project director RASTA, presented highlights of the RASTA journey comprising over one and a half years. PIDE’s RASTA is a multi-year competitive grants program for policy-oriented research in Pakistan, under the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) of the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, the Government of Pakistan.
The mission is to develop an extensive research network of academia and think tanks across Pakistan producing high-quality, evidence-based policy research to inform Pakistan’s public policy process, he stated.
Moreover, the programme seeks to develop local thought communities and generate contextualised knowledge. Substantial outputs are to be completed in important areas of public policy that would produce insightful research and facilitate goals that the government wants to achieve according to its vision.
So far, there have been three rounds of the Competitive the Grants Programme (CGP), where 443 applications were received and after the competitive review process, 32 applicants won the awards, amounting to PKR 91 million. Besides, in the second stream of Demand Driven Research (DDR), 18/49 types of research were initiated, adding up to another PKR 254 million, Dr Khan added.
He said that RASTA is going to circle Pakistan, arrange conferences in every major city of Pakistan and remote universities.