Member of Parliament for Trelawny Northern, Tova Hamilton says “corruption and nepotism” associated with the Programme for Resettlement and Integrated Development Enterprise (Operation PRIDE) have left hundreds of her constituents unable to build on lands on which they made deposits more than 20 years ago.
Hamilton made the comments last Wednesday as she made her contribution to the State of the Constituency Debate in the House of Representatives.
Operation PRIDE was launched in 1994 by the then PJ Patterson-led People’s National Party (PNP), ostensibly to provide affordable housing for low income Jamaicans, a point highlighted by Hamilton. She pointed out that it was launched to “inter alia, resolve the housing needs of the majority of low-income Jamaicans by developing new planned settlements and the upgrading of existing settlements”.
Said Hamilton: “Operation PRIDE was described as a unique method of making land legally accessible to low income groups at affordable prices through government subsidies. The necessity arose given the high cost of housing solutions in the formal sector; the limited available capital for housing and the inability of the majority to access mortgages”.
“It was the year 2000 that Operation PRIDE decided to utilise government lands in Cave Island (northern Trelawny) for a new planned settlement. Two hundred and sixty-nine members of a providence society signed up for lots at a subsidised cost and were promised infrastructure such as sewage, electricity, water, roads and drains,” the MP outlined.
However, the dream of home ownership did not materialise for those who deposited funds with the providence society, Hamilton said.
“Fast forward 22 years and the promise of infrastructure remains unfulfilled because of project overruns, improper choice of location for our particular development (which is very rocky terrain), corruption and nepotism,” Hamilton stated.
The government MP said several of the would-be beneficiaries had paid in full on the original price agreed.
“The 269 members of the providence society have now looked to me to solve this 22-year-old issue, which is one of 80 such informal settlements islandwide that PRIDE has left in its wake. It is evident that PRIDE will cost you everything but leave you with nothing,” Hamilton said.
At its inception, Operation PRIDE was seen as the vehicle to create a major dent in the country’s squatter problem. However, it soon ran into problems and was hit by several major scandals.
Then Water and Housing Minister Dr Karl Blythe was forced to resign from the Cabinet in what was described as the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC)/Operation PRIDE housing scandal where loose oversight resulted in alleged fraudulent use of funds.
Several persons were brought before the courts in a $450 million fraud case.
Blythe, the then Member of Parliament for Westmoreland Central had resigned after being accused of ministerial interference. He was subsequently cleared by the Rattray report that was commissioned by Patterson. Meanwhile, hundreds of Jamaicans in dozens of providence societies were left without the dream house that they were promised.