‘Far too long’
Maffessanti urges Gov’t to speed up land-titling process
MONTEGO BAY, St James — WHEN Montego Bay developer and builder Giuseppe Maffessanti sub-divided a parcel of land in Great River, St James, and distributed it to 32 families, he didn't expect that nearly a decade later they would still be without their titles, because of red tape.
"We have been dealing with this thing for the last 10 years and up to now we can't give the people their titles. How come it is taking so long?" Maffessanti questioned.
"We gave them the land with the anticipation that Government would over time provide them with their titles and would not charge them the transfer tax. We have done everything, surveys... and sent the title to the Government agency that is dealing with it."
Eighty-year-old Clarence Christian of St James has a similar problem.
For more than 10 years he has been awaiting approval from the St James Parish Council (SJPC) for a sub-division on a five-acre plot of land in Irwin, St James.
Christian said despite putting in infrastructure such as pipelines, roads, electricity and fire hydrants on the sub-division which constitutes 13 lots, he is yet to be given the green light by the SJPC.
"I am old now so I want to sell the lots and get the money to bury me and to enjoy some before I die," a frustrated Christian told the Jamaica Observer West.
In the meanwhile, Maffessanti revealed that work has been halted on many of the houses that were being constructed by the settlers, due to the uncertainty of tenure caused by the delay in the issuing of their titles.
"Some of the people started their houses there, and they can't go any further because without the title they can't do anything".
Kit Morrison, who is a recipient of a plot of land from Maffessanti, in the meantime, is calling for an end to the foot-dragging.
"We are very concerned about it because we can't do certain things like what we would want to do. Things like getting a National Housing Trust loan and so on. A whole heap a wi it a hold back," Morrison complained.
Another resident, John Miller, agreed.
"Everybody need them title. I need mine too and so the faster the process speeds up, the better," Miller said.
Maffessanti argued that because of the delay in sourcing their titles, some of the 32 land owners have begun to cast a shadow of doubt on whether I have in fact commenced the process, or if I actually owned the land".
"They seem to think now that I am telling them lies, that I probably did not have the ownership of the land to start with, which is absolute nonsense," he expressed.
When contacted Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, member of Parliament for West Central St James, in which the land is located, said that she is aware of the issue and has already made contact with the Ministry of water, land, environment and Climate Change, to have it resolved under the Land Administration and Management Programme (LAMP).
"I took up the matter and got it to the water, land, environment and climate change. I got in touch with LAMP so it is now with LAMP and I am going to follow up with them," said Ffolkes Abrahams, who is also the junior minister of industry, investment and commerce.
Maffessanti, in the meantime, is expressing optimism that the long-awaited matter will soon come to an end.
"I tell you, this thing has been going on for years now. And it was only after getting in touch with this young minister, Ffolkes Abrahams, that we have been able to make some forward move," he noted.
Last week, Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips, who was fielding questions from the floor at the Economic Reform Programme (ERP) Stakeholders' Conference at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James, said Government was moving to remove the red tape with regard to the issuing of land titles, after Maffassanti raised the issue.
"As far as the red tape and the land -titling issue are concerned, it is an area of major priority. We are committed to reducing the time for development approvals that's one, and indeed at the last Cabinet retreat instructions of the Cabinet and of the prime minister were that we need to place major emphasis in getting titles out," Dr Phillips stressed.
"Not just because it is a convenient document, but also because a Jamaican with a title in their hand become a potential economic actor in a way that can help lift the economy as a whole. So going forward, is it is going to be a major focus of activity. The LAMP programme is a major priority."