Fri | Nov 15, 2019

NHT benefits for all - Phillips promises better housing, education opportunities if elected to Government

Published:Monday | September 23, 2019 | 12:26 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Peter Phillips addressing the People’s National Party’s 81st anniversary conference at the National Arena yesterday.
Dr Peter Phillips addressing the People’s National Party’s 81st anniversary conference at the National Arena yesterday.

The next People’s National Party (PNP) administration will revamp the National Housing Trust (NHT) to ensure that everyone who contributes realises a benefit, Dr Peter Phillips has vowed.

Further, Phillips has promised that the PNP, if given state power, will amend the law to make it easier for “the ordinary Jamaican” to get land titles and lead “the most comprehensive assault” on the long-standing problem of squatting.

He disclosed, too, that his administration would guarantee a full scholarship for the first child to qualify for tertiary education in every family and provide “one sure meal” per day for primary and secondary students.

“This is not just talk,” Phillips declared as he addressed the public session of the PNP’s 81st annual conference at the National Arena yesterday.

The 69-year-old politician narrowly defeated Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting to retain the presidency of the PNP and is expected to lead the party into the next general election, which is constitutionally due in 2021.

Noting out that only about 45 per cent of NHT contributors are eligible to access financing, Phillips explained that under his administration, the agency would operate more like what Jamaicans commonly refer to as ‘partner’.

To help achieve this, he said, the NHT would utilise government lands, as well as owner-occupied lands, and pursue collaborations with other state entities.

“Everyone who ever throw partner, … you know say when you throw you hand, you must get a draw. We are going to ensure that people like Miss Hortense and every other contributor to the National Housing Trust has access to a benefit once you contribute,” said Phillips, making reference to one of his constituents who, according to him, has no benefit to show for her contribution to the NHT.

“Our principle is that if you are a contributor, you must get a benefit from the NHT.”

‘not just chat’

Phillips disclosed that already, the PNP has identified more than 50 laws that will have to be amended to provide a pathway to land ownership for the over 700,000 persons described as squatters.

“This is not just chat,” he again insisted.

“We are going to amend the laws. They are going to live somewhere under a Government led by the People’s National Party.”

But Phillips insisted that the number-one priority for a PNP administration under his leadership would be the transformation of Jamaica’s education system. This, he said, would include expanding university opportunities, “especially for the poorest”.

“The next PNP Government will guarantee that the first child in every family that qualifies for university will get a full scholarship from a Government of the People’s National Party,” he said.

The PNP leader also reiterated plans to make student loans more accessible by removing the requirement for a guarantor and to cap payments at a “reasonable” percentage of the salary students earn after graduation.

“And we will write off some of you loan if you come to give public service in the school system, for example, or mentoring people in communities,” he said.

Phillips acknowledged that his plan to provide a meal for students may “sound simple”, but insisted that it was a big thing.

“Pickney can’t learn pan hungry belly,” he said.

The PNP president conceded that none of his plans would succeed unless “we tackle head-on the issue of crime and general social disorder”.

As a result, he said, there are plans to reform the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and deal with the problems in family life across the island.

“It (JCF) has to become more efficient at detection and investigation and evidence gathering, which will contribute to effective prosecution,” he said.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com