Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
While there was an intention by the Bruce Golding administration to extract $45 million from the National Housing Trust (NHT), The Gleaner has been told that this move never materialised.
Former chairman of the board of the NHT, Howard Mitchell, said while the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government had sought a loan from the Trust to finance drought alleviation efforts in 2008-2009, the then Government reversed its decision on the advice of the solicitor general.
"It is not true that former Prime Minister Golding raided the Trust for drought-relief purposes," wrote Mitchell, in response to an article in The Sunday Gleaner. "The request was made for a loan from the Trust, but denied on the basis that the Trust could not lawfully lend money for that purpose."
Added Mitchell, "Then Prime Minister Golding and his Cabinet did not pursue the matter further".
Mitchell also noted that employers' contributions are, not under the present law, refundable after any period.
This means that no JLP Government has ever raided the coffers of the NHT, but successive People's National Party administrations have.
In 2003, the P.J. Patterson administration scraped $5 billion from the funds to finance its education transformation programme, a move on which Mitchell and the then NHT board frowned.
Although the then Patterson Government had moved to amend the NHT Act to legitimise its actions and promised that it would be a one-off measure, his successor Portia Simpson Miller has since raided the Trust twice.
On its first raid, the Simpson Miller administration deducted $15 billion to build houses for the poor in an ill-fated initiative dubbed the Inner-city Housing Project, the majority of whom have not been meeting their mortgage obligations.
With her administration now desperately clawing for funds to meet the stringent demands of the International Monetary Fund, Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips has served notice that he would be taking $4 billion from the highly liquid organisation.
A defiant Phillips served notice on Sunday that he would not be stopped in his tracks as he would amend the laws once again in order to legally get the funds.