JIS News

The increase in the National Housing Trust’s loan limits was one of the agency’s major achievements for 2005.
Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who announced the increases in the House of Representatives on July 20, said that serviced lot loans would be increased from $450,000 to $600,000 per single applicant and from $700,000 to $800,000 for co-applicants; while home improvement loans have been increased from $400,000 to $600,000 for single applicants and from $800,000 to $1.2 million for co-applicants.
Loan applicants also benefited from reduced interest rates and adjusted income bands. The adjustment saw the limit for non-homeowners increased from $1 million to $1.5 million for single applicants and from $2 million to $3 million for co-applicants for purchasing on the open market, build-on-own-land or the purchase of a scheme unit.
Mr. Patterson noted in his presentation, that income bands had been widened to allow persons earning a higher weekly income to pay lower interest rates. Under the arrangement, the corresponding interest rates for all existing income bands would be reduced by two per cent, except for persons already paying two per cent and those earning over $20,000 per week, who would benefit from a one per cent reduction.
Meanwhile, towards the end of July, the House approved amendments to Section four of the NHT Act to give the Trust legal authority to divert some $5 billion in a one-off transfer to finance the upgrading of educational facilities across the island, as part of the Education Transformation Programme.
The Prime Minister said that the decision by the Trust to make the payment to assist the Government in “providing education and shelter for the children of their contributors”, would not impair the ability of the Trust to meet its full obligations to contributors and beneficiaries.
This amendment allowed for the special support for education as a one time provision, as well as to enable the NHT to, from time to time, make a contribution to the development of social projects in respect of areas where it has provided special housing solutions and in areas where schemes are contemplated.
Prime Minister Patterson in 2004, appointed a 14-member Task Force to help transform the island’s educational system. The committee was charged with among other things, making recommendations on financing from the basic to the tertiary levels and determining the best allocation of resources; evaluating the education ministry’s structure, organisation and staffing and making recommendations about its effectiveness; and identifying the tools to ensure a first-rate educational system.
Based on the recommendations of the Task Force, it was estimated that the country would need to invest some $65 billion over 10 fiscal years (2005-2014) for capital expenditure. The Task Force estimated that it would take $21.9 billion in additional funding annually or a total annual budget of $52.1 billion up to the year 2015 to transform the education system.
In May, the Prime Minister broke ground for the construction of a US$40 million water supply expansion and rehabilitation project at Martha Brae in Trelawny. The project is expected to serve as a catalyst for development in Northern Jamaica and is financed jointly by the National Commercial Bank and BNP Paribas of France.
At the ceremony, he said the expansion would result in a doubling of the water supply to the area from approximately three to six million gallons daily. He said this would not only benefit residents and business interests in the parish, but that it would also increase the development potential of Duncans, Falmouth, Braco and adjoining areas in Trelawny. He said the project would also facilitate major business and tourism projects in Montego Bay, Lucea and Negril.
Mr. Patterson cited the development of Hampden Wharf in Falmouth as one of the projects that will benefit from the expanded water supply system. The Hampden Wharf is to be developed into a major commercial and cultural centre, complete with duty-free shopping malls, a slave museum and theatre and concert halls that will showcase the history of Jamaican music.
Mr. Patterson reminded residents of the need to protect the country’s watershed areas, stating that they could not be replaced and that their destruction and degradation would affect the country’s ability to have a sustainable water supply system. He said water was a precious commodity that should not be wasted but used for the social upliftment of all Jamaicans.
In November, Prime Minister Patterson announced a project to construct specialised retirement villages across the island, which he said, would be targeted at returning residents. “I am about to launch, through the National Housing Trust in conjunction with the building societies, a range of retirement villages throughout Jamaica in choice locations,” the Prime Minister said.
He was addressing the United Kingdom premier of the film ‘Jamaica the Ultimate Tour’ at the Science Museum in London.