ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday vowed to steer the country out of the prevailing crisis and get the affairs in order.He was addressing a ceremony after launching the ‘Naya Pakistan Housing Programme in Islamabad. Acknowledging the public’s woes in view of the recent economic meltdown and mounting debt, PM Imran defended his government’s decision to approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for loans.“We want loans so that we can pay off the loans,” he said, adding that “if the money laundering had been prevented then there would have been no need for loans”. He said the government would need three to six months to set the house in order.“Stay strong. It is [only a temporary] phase. I will steer the country out of these [difficult] times,” he promised. Speaking at the ceremony, the premier said the government was committed to ensuring provision of five million affordable houses for under-privileged classes during the next five years.He expressed confidence that the programme would not only provide affordable housing to the poor but also create employment opportunities in the country. The project will also attract local and foreign investment, he said. A special housing authority would be established in three months to serve as one window for all construction-related formalities. A task force would look after the housing project until then.A national financial regulatory body will also be set up in two months to remove hurdles in financing of construction of houses, the premier announced. Registration for the houses will begin from tomorrow with the cooperation of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), which has been tasked with collecting data to identify those in need.Areas where low-cost houses can be built, will also be identified. The private sector has reportedly been made part of the housing project to give recommendations on completing the project in five years, he added.Initially, the pilot project will be launched in seven cities which include Faisalabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Dera Ismail Khan, Islamabad, Gilgit and Muzaffarabad.Imran said he would take ownership of the initiative in order to ensure smooth implementation and remove any administrative bottlenecks.“Provision of five million houses equipped with all basic facilities, and regularisation of slums is the foremost priority of the government and a part of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s manifesto,” he added.Having a total population of around 210 million, Pakistan had 30 million housing units with a 10 million shortfall. Against an annual demand of 700,000 housing units, the country constructs only 250,000 houses with a shortfall of 450,000 houses per annum.Published in Daily Times, September 11th 2018.