Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Letter of the Day | NHT backtrack an egregious con

Published:Tuesday | March 14, 2017 | 12:00 AM


It is customary to hear older folks describe politicians as tricksters, but I have never witnessed such blatant and barefaced hypocrisy on a political stage in all my life until I heard Prime Minister Andrew Holness launch a defence for his administration's decision to borrow funds from the National Housing Trust, a move when proposed by the Opposition in 2013 he described as "expropriation" and "robbery".

During his address to Parliament in response to the decision by the Portia Simpson Miller administration to use NHT funds for budgetary support, particularly to meet IMF targets, Mr Holness lamented

"The issue, Mr Speaker, is that this present piece of legislation that you are hoping to amend does not, in any way, relieve the consideration that you are taking private funds. Listen, the only word that can describe government taking private funds without the consent of the persons giving or of the persons who own it rather is expropriation. That's what it amounts to. It wasn't any mistake in language when Michael Manley said it was the financial institution of the housing sector, because effectively, this is where poor people would put their money, save it with that institution to get housing. Technically it is now akin to you putting the money in the bank and the government coming to you and say, 'Gimme di money."

In another forum, then Opposition Leader Andrew Holness continued to lambast the former administration as he stressed the legality of the act. He told us in no uncertain terms that "by law, the employees' contributions cannot be touched ... . It is indeed a far stretch for the government to now go and take $11 billion per year for the next four years, 44 billion dollars, to use to reduce the debt. We question the legality of it and we are examining it and we make the public call that the Government should also seek the advice of the solicitor general on this matter"

Now imagine my shock and awe when it was announced that this Holness administration would do the exact same thing! He posited that the former administration was doing it out of "convenience" and he did not accept their argument that it was a necessary sacrifice. Is it that we should accept that this move is a necessary sacrifice to shield this administration from the biggest farce of an election promise, the 1.5 tax plan? A plan that criticised by several economists as impractical without taxes?


I was further mystified when I heard the honourable prime minister defend his actions by criticising the public's understanding of the NHT and its functions and accessibility. In his most eloquent fashion he asserted "So people see the NHT as a housing agency. The NHT is not a housing agency. The NHT is a financial institution and we have to treat the NHT like a financial institution."

This level of double standard, lack of integrity and brutal display of dishonestly by the prime minister is reprehensible and unacceptable, especially since one of his mandates when campaigning for office is to change the face of politics by leading with integrity.

I call upon the prime minister to apologise the people of Jamaica, for he has committed an egregious act that will threaten his credibility as a leader with integrity and principles.