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JLP Gov't did not raid NHT — Chang

Thursday, February 28, 2013    

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OPPOSITION Spokesperson on Water and Housing Dr Horace Chang has refuted claims that the previous Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Administration raided the National Housing Trust (NHT).

"The JLP Administration did not, at any time in its history, raid the trust." Dr Chang said in a release yesterday.

The release followed a public statement earlier this week by former chairman of the Trust, Howard Mitchell, that an intention by the Bruce Golding-led Administration to extract $45 million from the Trust did not materialise.

Chang, in clarifying the issue, said that in an attempt at fiscal consolidation before the agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the JLP Government, in 2009, sought to take $500 million from the NHT.

"However, based on legal advice from the then solicitor general, the move was abandoned," Dr Chang said.

He added that, prior to that, the JLP Government had also considered taking $40 million from the NHT for water projects, but did not follow through, as it was considered illegal based on similar legal advice.

"The prime minister, at the time, was very adamant that nothing should be done that would impair the financial integrity of the Trust, especially in light of the strong legal arguments," Chang stated.

He said that the current Government, on the other hand, does not recognise that they are acting illegally based on "faulty advice" from the Attorney General's Department.

Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips, on Tuesday, tabled a Bill to ensure its right to withdraw $45.6 billion from the Trust over the next four years as a precondition to securing a deal with the IMF.

The move, which was announced over two weeks ago, has received strong opposition from some quarters, including lobby group Citizens Action for Principle and Integrity (CAPI), which has already filed an application in the Supreme Court seeking an injunction.

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