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LETTER OF THE DAY - Viable budgetary gap solutions

Published:Thursday | June 7, 2012 | 12:00 AM


I READ there is a proposal to take $12 billion of the National Housing Trust (NHT) employers' contributions and transfer it to the Consolidated Fund in order to close the budgetary gap. I would like to register my strong opposition to this proposal because the contributions are made by the employers with the understanding that they will be used to improve the provision of shelter for Jamaicans - not just NHT contributors - and not to subsidise successive, irresponsible governments which have squandered the wealth and assets of this nation since our Independence in 1962.

Furthermore, I believe that these funds can be used far more effectively and productively to create an economic stimulus as well as fulfil their primary purpose. For example, if we were to use these funds to, first of all, regularise the informal settlements in the nation, starting with Montego Bay and Kingston, then install the required infrastructure - roads, water supply, sewage collection and treatment, drainage, lighting, social facilities, including schools, post offices, police posts and recreational space - it would have several beneficial effects on the people and economy. These include, for example:

1. Stimulating the economy through construction, all done by local companies, therefore, profits stay in Jamaica.

2. Increasing the tax base, as each regularised household would now be on the property tax roll and then registered throughout the system.

3. Decrease the theft of utilities, as each new homeowner would be a registered and paying customer of the utility companies.

4. Reduce crime, as the homeowners would be less willing to tolerate it in their community as it depresses their property values (some education would be needed). Also, the police would have improved response time, as roads would be installed and addresses available to respond to.

5. Bring dignity and self-worth to the once- squalid 'capturer'.

6. Increase the NHT contributor base, as they would now be registered within the tax and bureaucratic system.

Sell the land

The lots could then be sold to the regularised 'squatter' on a cost-plus basis, or turned into a mortgage from the NHT, thereby securing another contributor and broadening the tax base.

The resulting planned communities with registered taxpayers and legitimate homeowners would only strengthen the fabric of Jamaican life and improve our ability and commitment to meeting the Vision 2030 goals of making "Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business", which is now seriously in doubt, as recently stated by the Planning Institute of Jamaica.