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NHT to modify programmes to ensure $44-b handover

Ingrid Brown

Saturday, February 23, 2013    

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NATIONAL Housing Trust (NHT) Managing Director Cecile Watson says the entity will be seeking to modify some of its programmes to ensure the $44 billion required by the Government from surplus over four years is met.

"There is going to be a deliberate approach to ensure the Trust remains viable because we will manage inflows and outflows to ensure the contributions can be paid from the surplus," the NHT boss told Thursday's Jamaica House press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kingston.

NHT Chairman Easton Douglas had told the briefing earlier that he was confident that the Trust would be able to satisfy the $44-billion obligation without any adverse effect on the entity's mandate, given that some $22 billion was already sitting in surplus profits or deferred earnings.

"This is enough for two years but it will not remain $22 billion because we have already projected that by the end of the financial year in March the surplus will be $22.9 billion and the surplus keeps rolling in from investments, operations, interest rates, mortgages and loans, and so on," Douglas said.

"... We have looked at the historical earnings to put into surplus and as a result of that we are confident we will, from operations, have the amount that is required," Douglas added.

When pressed about the period of time the $22 billion surplus had accumulated and whether the additional amounts could be accumulated in four years, Watson said the surplus has been since the inception of the Trust in the 1970s.

She noted, however, that the surplus has been building rather than decreasing over the last 36 years, except for in the period up to 2009 when the Trust operated at a loss.

In the meantime, Douglas said the move by Government to take money from the Trust is legal.

Douglas said The Public Bodies Management and Accountability Act, which was amended in 2011, provides for the minister of finance to be able to have the authority to seek from any public body an amount from surpluses, deferred earnings or profits.

A public body, he noted, is one enacted by legislation and becomes a creature of statute.

"The NHT, because it is a statutory body, is a public body so it falls clearly within the definition of a public body and in terms of falling in that definition the minister of finance can seek to get funds for fiscal consolidation from surplus, retained earnings or profit," Douglas said.

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