Dennise Williams, Staff Reporter
CHAIRMAN OF the The National Investment Bank of Jamaica (NIBJ) Aubyn Hill is proposing a major divestment of Government-held land.
"The Government must keep some land for strategic purposes, but as new chairman of NIBJ, I will suggest to the board that we need to sell the rest," he said. Mr. Hill was speaking at the Terra Nova Hotel on Saturday to the Realtors Association of Jamaica's 40th anniversary banquet.
"This week, I am getting my staff to create a fine inventory of lands, so we know exactly what we have," he said. "You can never know what land will be needed in 50 years, so we need to have some government land, but we don't need so much government land. So we will invite the private entrepreneurs to buy excess land."
Recognising the controversial nature of the statement, Mr. Hill pointed out, "I don't speak for any official, I speak for myself. I have my own opinion."
And addressing the fear that foreigners could gain substantial control over the land, Mr. Hill said, "When officials become fearful of selling land to foreigners, I remind them of the fact that foreigners cannot physically remove the land in Jamaica and take it back to their country. Jamaicans make money when the land is bought and make money when it is sold."
In terms of a timeline for the sale Mr. Hill informed Wednesday Business, "The work is very complicated. We have to go through the titles for all the properties plus we have to be aware of the state of the individual properties. But the important thing is to start the process and that is what we are doing."
Started in 1975, The National Investment Bank of Jamaica (NIBJ) is owned by the Government of Jamaica.
The most recent financials reveal that as at March 31, 2002, NIBJ's investments and loans to projects totalled approximately $3.6 billion. During the period April 1, 2001 to March 31, 2002, NIBJ's committed portfolio increased by more than 30 per cent based largely on new or additional investments/commitments in Sandals Whitehouse, Runaway Bay Developments, Technological Solutions, Fellowship Aquaculture, Thermoplastics, Clarendon Lime, Western Cement Company, Imex Technologies, Caribbean Casting, Jamaica Venture Fund and Paymaster, along with disbursements to the Intech Fund.