Phillips not surprised by NHT ruling
Livern Barrett, Senior Gleaner Writer
Former Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips says he is not surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss a legal challenge to the former administration's decision to withdraw $45.6 billion from the National Housing Trust (NHT).
He says this is because the transfer of the funds by the NHT, which began in the 2013-2014 financial year, was done pursuant to an act of Parliament which was certified as being in conformity with the Jamaican Constitution.
The decision by the Simpson Miller administration to withdraw $11.4 billion from the NHT over a four year period ending this financial year started a firestorm of criticisms from a wide cross-section of the society.
However, Phillips says it probably saved Jamaica from economic disaster.
St James businessman Fitzroy Fagan had challenged the move by the Simpson Miller government to enact the National Housing Trust Amendment Special Provisions Act 2013 to authorise the more than $45 billion withdrawal.
The government explained at the time that the funds were needed to enable Jamaica to meet certain fiscal targets included in the four-year extended fund facility with the International Monetary Fund.
However, Fagan, through his attorney, Hugh Wildman, asked the court to declare the amended NHT Act null and void and find that the multibillion-dollar withdrawals amounts to a “deprivation” of this property as defined by the Constitution.
However, the Full Court, in a verbal decision handed down last month, sided with attorneys for the NHT who had argued that the agency was never intended to operate as a private trust scheme, despite the use of the word ‘trust’ in the name.
The court also found that even if the NHT operated as a trust scheme, there was no evidence that the payments to the government deprived Fagan of his property or benefits.