Al Miller, Contributor
I read with interest the article in The Gleaner of February 25, 2013 attributing statements from Dr Peter Phillips that he will use legislative power of Parliament if necessary to take funds from National Housing Trust (NHT) for budget support. This issue has been a concern to me for some time now. I am compelled to address it in light of the trend. Therefore, let me add some perspectives:
Dr Phillips and the Government are between a rock and a hard place and, by extension, the country. Finding a way out with the least burden on the majority, especially the poor, is crucial. However, tough situations must never override principles, and this has been our problem to date. Our political leaders have historically demonstrated a lack of moral integrity, hence expediency and selfishness have often taken precedence over principle.
The country is in the dilemma because of bad governance over the last 25 years, coupled with the errors of the 1970s, for which most of us, including Dr Phillips and associates, must take responsibility. We could excuse it as either 'youthful exuberance' or 'youthful zealous folly'. Crying over spilt milk cannot solve the problem; we must together find solutions which are there.
What is going to be important is humility and right attitude. Dr Phillips' tone suggests a bad attitude on a point that is morally wrong. If the Government wants to borrow some money (from NHT) because of a self-created jam, it should humbly ask the people, presenting a plan, method and time of repayment.
The fund is to correctly be held in trust on behalf of the contributors for the benefit of providing affordable housing solutions. My deep concern has been for years the argument that the NHT has surplus funds. NHT has not, and cannot, have any surplus funds until it has morally fulfilled its mandate.
Sadly and disappointingly, governments of the past and present, and the boards they have appointed, have not loved and cared enough for the poor and contributors to seek their best interest. Nor has the Church, which ought to be guardians of the poor and voice of moral integrity, addressed this matter in the people's interest.
How can the NHT have billions of dollars stored up and the poor cannot get affordable housing? The majority cannot qualify for a mortgage; squatter settlements abound; interest rates are higher than necessary; there is talk in the air to increase the NHT interest rates; and yet we say NHT has surplus.
Where is the surplus in this scenario? Where is the genuine care for the poor? Where is the political party rooted in socialist philosophy (PNP)? Where is the Church called to love and care for the poor?
If we do not, as responsible leaders from all walks of society, wake up and smell the coffee of growing discontent, fear, poverty, and hopelessness, the chaos and anarchy brewing that many of us have been working for years to avoid will inevitably explode on us.
Spirit of cooperation
This is the time for active engagement by caring serious leaders to get involved for real change. We must unite our nation in a genuine spirit of cooperation and work quickly, to restore hope and a sound future.
Whereas in the crisis I am inclined to support the Government taking a loan from the NHT as a temporary measure, it must not be repeated, as the principle is wrong. However, Dr Phillips' attitude and approach need to change, and repayment must be made and the welfare of the poor must take priority.
The IMF must be made to understand that principle must take priority over expediency, and that we will not go with the Fund at any cost. Our God is able to provide alternatives, although that requires faith in God which does not abound in many of our leaders.
The current national realities continue to echo the need for fresh leadership across the political spectrum with vision, passion and genuine love for people and nation to arise. Let us not lose hope. We can, as a people, overcome if we will unite and work.
Al Miller is pastor of Fellowship Tabernacle. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.