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Increased NHT benefits among several initiatives announced by PM

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness yesterday announced a number of new initiatives by the National Housing Trust (NHT) aimed at creating more housing units and increasing access to funding for Jamaicans aiming to become homeowners.

“By providing greater access to funding and driving the creation of more housing solutions to the market the NHT will be increasing its mission to make homeownership a reality for more Jamaicans in 2019/20 and beyond,” he told the House of Representatives as he made his contribution to the budget debate.

He said that, in keeping with market trends of declining interest rates, the NHT proposes to: reduce interest rates by one percentage point for all mortgagors and widen the current income bands to account for changes in earning levels since their last adjustment.

The ceiling of lowest interest rate band would be increased to $15,000 per week from the current $12,000, thereby allowing more people to access the home grant, which is tied to this marker.

The greatest reduction in mortgage payments will accrue to contributors earning between $30,001 and $42,000 per week, who will enjoy an effective rate reduction of three percentage points because of the combined impact of a shift in the upper limit of the income band, as well at the one percentage point rate decrease.

Mortgagors whose incomes fall between $12,001 and $15,000 per week will receive a reduction of two percentage points for the same reasons. This initiative will cost the NHT approximately $1.2 billion.

In a speech lasting more than three hours, Holness also addressed other crucial issues, including crime, improved governance at Government-owned institutions, and apologies to the public for the inconvenience being caused to road users and residents in communities affected by the massive overhaul of the Corporate Area’s road and public utilities infrastructure.

“If you left the island two years ago and will be returning for the summer, you may not recoginse some parts. Jamaica is transforming before our very eyes. And I want to thank the people of Jamaica for their patience as we move to complete several major road corridors and start others,” he stated.

He said that the Major Infrastructure Development Programme (MIDP), which is being supervised by the National Works Agency (NWA), under the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, is almost at an end.

He said, overall, the MIDP is 90.9 per cent complete, based on financial spend. Approximately US$320.7 million of the US$352.941-million budget has been certified.

Component one is 80 per cent complete and component two is 99 per cent complete. Component three, meanwhile, is 93 per cent complete, and the National Water Commission’s ancillary works, which includes the installation of water pipelines and sewerage are 81 per cent complete.

The prime minister also noted that the states of public emergency have reduced murders in St James by 70 per cent and by 22 per cent nationwide.

However, he said that the Government remains committed to pursuing measures which are deemed necessary and effective by the security forces in ensuring internal security across the island.

Holness said that at the meeting of the National Security Council, which advises the Government on crime issues, he had proposed a new legislative framework, giving intermediate and specific powers to the security forces.

“I am putting the House on notice that the enhanced security measures legislation is being designed to empower the security forces with the tools deemed necessary,” said the prime minister.

On the issue of the selection of boards for government-owned public bodies, Holness said that a new policy for board appointments, which his Government will introduce shortly, will strengthen the governance and accountability systems of public bodies and facilitate greater probity, efficiency and transparency in the nomination, selection and appointment of board members to Public Bodies.

The policy will also provide clarity and certainty on the circumstances in which the tenure of a board will cease, and will support institutional knowledge and seamless transitions. (See related story on Page 5).

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