Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, says the Government will ensure that the National Housing Trust (NHT) continues to grow and flourish in the interest of the Jamaican people.
He was speaking in the Senate on Friday (March 8), as he successfully piloted the National Housing Trust (Special Provisions) Act 2013 through the Upper House.
The legislation will facilitate the withdrawal of $11.4 billion annually from the Trust to provide budgetary support over a period of four years, beginning financial year 2013/2014 and ending in 2016/2017.
The Bill's approval in the Senate, follows its successful passage in the House of Representatives on March 5.
In opening the debate, Senator Golding reiterated that the decision to use the funds of the NHT is necessary in achieving a primary surplus target of 7.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the next fiscal year.
This, he said, forms a significant part of the Economic Reform Programme and to secure an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The Senator said that having conducted and reviewed stress tests to measure the capacity of the NHT to make the required annual payments to the Consolidated Fund, the Government is satisfied that the agency will be able to continue to play its role in the housing sector and the national economy.
He noted that the NHT "has a very strong balance sheet, as it has received decades of contributions from employees and employers and has built up a large portfolio of liquid investments and an even larger portfolio of revolving mortgage loans."
The Trust, he said, has an accumulated surplus of $88 billion and annual net flows of $39 billion from contributions, income from investments, and loan repayments.
As such, even after the annual amounts of $11.4 billion are paid into the Consolidated Fund, the NHT will continue to be able to meet its obligations, including refunds of employee contributions where those become due, and continue its programme of housing development and mortgage loans.
In supporting the Bill, Government Senator, K.D. Knight said the decision to look to the NHT was made out of "an abundance of caution".
"I am not in support of the Bill, because it is presented by the Government. I am in support of the Bill, because of what it aims to achieve," he stated.
He said the Government has carefully assessed its decision and has arrived at the conclusion that there are no better alternatives. "There's always an alternative, but the alternative is such that it would plunge the country into a predicament from which it would be more difficult to rescue than with an IMF agreement," he argued.
"When there is a crisis, one has to do extraordinary things to get out of that crisis and in doing extraordinary things, it must be reasoned and reasonable, and I think both are applicable to this situation," he stated.