Dr Moonilal to PM Rowley, is a personal feud between contractor Elias and Minister Imbert affecting the housing sector?
Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley must tell the country whether the execution of public policy with respect to the housing sector is being held up by a bitter personality feud involving two principal figures.
Dr. Rowley must explain whether or not Finance Minister Colm Imbert is declining to give a government guarantee to NH International (Caribbean) Ltd., because of the on-going private legal row involving the Minister and the company’s Chairman Emile Elias.
Reports of a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) with NH International being jeopardised also exposes the fact that the previously-announced joint venture was a public relations stunt designed to con the nation that, at long last, there was activity in the government housing sector.
This is further reinforced by the fact that the Rowley regime had stopped an earlier PPP with Republic Bank, which was initiated by the previous administration.
In my recent budget intervention I alluded to this collapse of the PPP initiative by an incompetent and inefficient HDC board under the supervision of a weak Minister. The lack of support for NH international is a direct result of a lack of proper project planning and execution.
Dr. Rowley, as Minister of Housing in a previous PNM regime, had attended a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), at which there was approval for joint ventures.
Joint ventures were another version of PPP.
Contractors were to present land, financing and project management skills.
Yet, from 2006 to 2008, the HDC proceeded to award public contracts worth $9.8 billion, with unapproved variations of $3.4 billion.
None of the multiple projects were undertaken through joint ventures or PPPs.
The joint venture mechanism was simply a PNM ruse to award contracts without proper procurement processes.
The issue of government guarantees comes at a time when the Rowley regime has alienated the banking sector, with 35 per cent taxation.
Further, no contractor will want to engage the government without loan guarantees, since the government is now anti-business and has accused the same contractors of being involved in cartel behaviour.
Several contractors have been forced to take the government to court over long-overdue payments. The unsettled bills have led some contractors to send home workers and to run into serious payment issues with their respective bankers.
On the heels of the collapse of the two year old PPP single project comes the scandalous revelations that upscale and luxurious housing units have been given to two government ministers and a PNM senator. This requires a full explanation by the Minister of Housing. How did a Senator become a Minister to obtain Housing? The provision of high priced units on a Rent to Own (RTO) basis is scandalous and the Minister need to explain how a RTO policy meant for low income applicants can be used to provide multi million dollar housing units to party supporters and family members ? The Minister must also explain why this arrangement was hidden from the public when he provided an answer to a parliamentary question on occupants at Victoria Keys. He must also disclose all the occupants on RTO arrangements.
It is now clear why Minister Stuart Young choose to shut down all answers on Victoria Keys which I posed during the examination of the Housing Ministry at the recent Standing Finance Committee meeting when he advised Minister Mitchell not to answer questions since “everything” at HDC was under investigation. Remarkably neither Minister Mitchell or HDC Managing Director Brent Lyons knew about any investigation. This suggest that Minister Young misled the parliament in a dastardly bid to hide information on the true occupants at the cursed Victoria Keys estate.
DR. ROODAL MOONILAL,
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR OROPOUCHE EAST
& FORMER MINISTER OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT