Sun | Jun 26, 2022

Phillips labels PM’s NHT remarks as 'rude and insensitive'

Published:Wednesday | May 25, 2022 | 10:19 AM
Phillips: "[The] NHT and its accomplishments represent the blood, sweat and tears of the Jamaican working class through their compulsory contribution taken from salaries." - Contributed photo.

Opposition Spokesperson on Housing Mikael Phillips is describing a declaration from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that the National Housing Trust (NHT) is a financial institution and should not be seen as a charity by the working class as rude and insensitive.

Holness said although the NHT was born out of concerns emerging from the labour movement, and was initially capitalised by funds from the National Insurance Scheme, it is not for welfare. 

READ: NHT not a charity says Holness

"The NHT is first and foremost a financial institution to support the development of housing in Jamaica. There is an illogical thinking amongst our people where it believed that if we run our business as a charitable organisation, almost, that we will have the resources to be charitable. I want that point to sink in," he said while addressing the groundbreaking ceremony for the Union Acres Housing Development in Irwin, St James last Friday.

Reacting, Phillips says Holness' comments were not only insulting to Jamaican workers and their trade unions but were unwarranted and unfortunate, especially during Workers' Week.

“[The] NHT and its accomplishments represent the blood, sweat and tears of the Jamaican working class through their compulsory contribution taken from salaries.

“It was the foresight of the Manley Administration in 1975 which led to the establishment of the trust as a social contract partnership with workers and trade unions, and the workers accepted it as a way to buy a house, not to receive charity.”

Phillips said any worker or trade union should be able to make proposals on making the NHT more responsive without being subject to verbal abuse and insults purely because the Prime Minister presides over the NHT policymaking.

“I would encourage complete discussion and participation of an idea to better the trust, even if it does not meet the approval of any incumbent from either political party, but to disparage the institution and its accomplishments is a regressive approach and unbecoming of a head of government.”

The opposition spokesman said the Prime Minister does not need any reminder that in the 2017/18 financial year, he signed an amendment to the NHT taking $11.4 billion annually from the trust for budgetary support for four financial years.

“Reminding the working class that the NHT was not a welfare institution is highly misplaced,” argued Phillips.

Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at onlinefeedback@gleanerjm.com or editors@gleanerjm.com.