NHT Foundation stillborn - Golding's plan to use Trust money to fix infirmaries and children's homes buried by Simpson Miller-led administration
A plan announced in 2011 to use money from the cash rich National Housing Trust (NHT) to make well-needed repairs and improvements to golden age homes, infirmaries and living quarters at police stations has been killed and buried by the Portia Simpson Miller administration.
Golding had used what was to be his final budget presentation as prime minister in May 2011 to announce plans to create a NHT Foundation, which would be financed with approximately $1.2 billion in unclaimed refunds held by the Trust.
According to Golding, the foundation's mandate would be to improve infrastructure in critical areas. But with the change in administration, there has been no further word on the foundation and, four years later, it is yet to get off the ground.
Last week, Howard Mitchell, who was the chairman of the NHT at the time Golding made his announcement, told The Sunday Gleaner that the board had put the required mechanisms in place for the creation of the foundation before he left office in October of 2011.
"A proposal was made from the board for the establishment of the foundation. That proposal was sent to the portfolio minister, which was accepted, and instructions were given for the implementation of the necessary instruments and documentation to establish the foundation," said Mitchell.
"Further than that, I cannot say what happened because I left office before the next budget speech," added Mitchell.
But recently appointed chairman of the NHT, Dr Carlton Davis, told The Sunday Gleaner that the creation of such a foundation would have been in breach of the NHT Act.
"I have only been in the position for the past two months; however, as a board, we are looking through the Housing Trust Act to see what it can and cannot do. Based on the legal provisions of the act, there is no provision for the creation of any foundation to do any of these things that were outlined by Mr Golding with contributors' money," said Davis.
According to Davis, while the refurbishing of golden age homes, infirmaries, and living quarters at police stations would be a noble endeavour, the NHT Act sets the Trust a specific mandate.
"To create housing benefits for its contributors and to enhance the viability of the communities for our contributors, so a project to repair a police station in a specific housing trust community would be within the trust's mandate.
"However, the act would not allow us to do blanket repairs to every police station across the island," said Davis.
"I will be the first to say these are noble endeavours, but the Trust and the board have to operate under the foundations of the law, and there is no provision in the law for the kind of action that was proposed by the former prime minister," added Davis.
Despite the NHT Foundation being a non-starter, the Simpson Miller administration, in 2014, targeted the Trust for the provision of $46.4 billion, ($11.6 billion annually) over the four years of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Extended Fund Facility.
Simpson Miller also used her 2014 budget speech to announce that the NHT would provide $250 million for repairs of infirmaries and shelters across the island, many of which Minister of Local Government Noel Arscott admitted "had serious problems".
However, Davis argued that, unlike the budget support where Parliament amended the NHT Act, no such amendment was made for the foundation proposed by Golding.
"The Parliament has the power to amend the law as was done in the case of the $11.6 billion payments, but no amendment was made for the creation of this foundation," said Davis.