Contributors to the National Housing Trust (NHT) are being assured that their funds are safe, and that the usual annual refunds will be readily available whenever persons choose to make claims.
Chairman of the NHT, Easton Douglas, gave the assurance today (February 21), at a Jamaica House press briefing, where he noted that the NHT is now in the process of repaying some $2.6 billion in refunds.
“The National Housing Trust is well and healthy and is viable, and will be sustainable,” Mr. Douglas stated.
He was addressing concerns that have been raised since Finance Minister, Dr. the Hon. Peter Phillips, announced that the Government will be asking the NHT for $11 billion annually for four years, for budgetary support.
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The Chairman emphasised that the agency is not a Trust fund, as is being put forward by some persons who are questioning the move.
“The Trust does not satisfy the legal requirement of being a Trust…the NHT Act does describe the institution as the National Housing Trust, but the opinion we have received from the Solicitor General, (is) that it is not a legal Trust in the true sense…and therefore, we are not a Trustee,” he stated.
On the matter of whether it is legal for the Government to use money from the NHT in this manner, Mr. Douglas explained that under the Public Bodies Management and Accountability law, the Minister of Finance has the authority to seek from any public body, monies from surpluses, deferred earnings, or profits for financial support.
He pointed out that the NHT qualifies as a public body, and therefore falls under this law. “It falls clearly within the definition of a public body, and the Minister of Finance can seek to get funds for fiscal consolidation, from surplus, retained earnings or profit,” he reinforced.
Noting that the Trust already has a surplus of $22 billion, which will account for two years of draw-down, he informed that by the end of March, this will move to $22.9 million.
“So, the surplus keeps rolling in from our investments, our operations, from interest rates, from mortgages and loans…therefore, we are quite safe with respect to the $44 billion over four years. This is not affecting the viability or sustainability of the Trust,” he told journalists.
The use of NHT funds is part of a number of measures being taken to ensure that the country reaches an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). An IMF deal will allow access to critical funding as well as indicate to other multi-lateral partners that the Government is prudently managing its fiscal affairs. It will also boost investor confidence.