Property Matters – HDC Financing

“…There are a lot of things that did not go right in the NHA and one of those things had to do with accountability…The HDC is not going to function like that. We are required by law to have the accounts ready in a certain period of time. The CEO will be held accountable and the Cabinet will hold the minister accountable and the Parliament will hold the Cabinet accountable. That is what the HDC means…”

—Then Housing Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at the launch of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in October 2005.

Keith Rowley
Former Minister of Housing, Keith Rowley, M.P.

This week I am shifting focus from the ‘Affordability Hoax‘ to the financial aspect of our country’s large-scale public housing program as conducted by the HDC. I am therefore ignoring other agencies such as the Land Settlement Agency and other types of State funding or tax allowances such as mortgage relief etc.

Dr Rowley was referring to these obligations in the HDC Act (No 24 of 2005)

  • S.18 – to keep the HDC’s books and accounts in accordance with proper accounting standards;
  • S.19 – HDC’s accounts to be audited annually to proper accounting standards, with that audit report submitted to the Minister and the Board;
  • S.20 – HDC’s Board to submit its Annual Report to the Minister within three months of the end of the financial year and the Minister to publish that Report to Parliament within three months of its receipt.

But the HDC has never published any audited accounts in the eleven years of its existence, spanning three political administrations, thus far. That failure and/or refusal to publish audits is in breach of those sections of the HDC Act. Continue reading “Property Matters – HDC Financing”

Property Matters – Achieving Affordability

hdclogoThe previous column labelled the repeated official statements as to the increased supply of affordable homes as ‘alternative facts’. This week, I will set out just what needs to happen for the HDC to provide more affordable housing.

Even when the definition is well established, it is notoriously difficult to deliver affordable housing to those who really need it. The challenges is far greater if there is no attempt by the responsible officials to define the goal. A degree of clarity is therefore essential if affordable housing is to be truly achieved. Continue reading “Property Matters – Achieving Affordability”

Property Matters – The Affordability Hoax

The Affordability Hoax. Drawing by David Cave.

AFFORDABILITY IS THE MAIN PILLAR OF THE HOUSING POLICY SINCE 2002
—Key quote from HDC’s Home Ownership webpage

“…Housing Minister Randall Mitchell says Government has made housing more affordable to low and middle-income families unlike the People’s Partnership government which catered for high-income earners…” December 2016

Randall Mitchell, MP, Minister of Housing and Urban Development

Once again, the HDC and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Randall Mitchell, have been in the news with strong claims based on the HDC’s program and new mortgage offerings by TTMF. The headline in this newspaper on 10 February 2017 was “More people to access affordable housing“. In my view those are baseless and misleading official claims which readily qualify as ‘alternative facts’. Bigly so.

These statements are not unique to Minister Mitchell, who is relatively new to this portfolio, but enough is enough. Given the importance of public housing in the nation’s welfare arrangements and the sheer lack of reliable information on the issues, it is now time to dismantle the myth of an increasing supply of affordable housing. Continue reading “Property Matters – The Affordability Hoax”

CL Financial bailout – DoubleThink

doublethink
Illustration © David Cave

‘…Doublethink is the ability to hold two completely contradictory beliefs at the same time and to believe they are both true…’
—from George Orwell’s ‘1984’

On 25 January 2017 the annual Corruption Perceptions Index report was published by Transparency International, with the results reflecting poorly on our country. T&T’s score fell from 39 in the previous year to 34 in 2016 – this scale measures greater perceptions of public sector corruption as declining scores, with the countries seen as least corrupt having the highest score. As a result of the declining score, our ranking fell from 72nd out of 168 countries to 101st out of 176. That decline in perception was a serious one and really little surprise to the attentive citizen, none whatsoever. Of course perceptions take some time to change, so the question is whether the post-September 2015 regime can improve those poor perceptions.

I believe that there is now an outbreak of tragic ‘doublethink’ within our country’s leadership, in relation to the CL Financial bailout. That must be challenged if we are to ever see any improvement in our nation’s fortunes, not to mention the slide in terms of perception of corruption. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – DoubleThink”

CL Financial bailout – Bitter Brew

CORRECTION: On the issue of interest due on Public Money advanced for the CL Financial bailout

I have been stating that the Public Money advanced for this CL Financial bailout has been interest-free and that was a clear indication of the most-favoured status of the borrowers. With apologies to my readers, I now accept that 4.75% was charged on the first tranche of $5Bn which was lent in 2009, so my prior claim needs to be withdrawn – see comments below. Yes, interest was charged on the bailout monies but at such a paltry rate as to leave my fundamental point undisturbed, as explained below.

The Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC) is a metric used to show what is the average cost of the capital raised by a company. It is a vital tool in strategic management and allows the company’s leaders to make effective borrowing decisions. For example, a company which had borrowed half of its capital at 10% and the other half at 14%, would have a WACC of 12%.

If we apply this approach to the CL Financial bailout the answer is instructive. So, we can assume that the total advanced is $25Bn – there are many estimates floating out there, but $25Bn is recurs quite frequently – with only 4.75% being charged on the first $5Bn and no interest on any more of the Public Money advanced to CLF. According to my calculations, given that only 20% of the CLF bailout pays interest at 4.75% and the other 80% is at zero-percent, the WACC is .95%, less than 1% is the interest due from the CL Financial chiefs for this epic loan. I tell you. It really looks like those insurance and investment gurus had it right, eh…party political investment is really the best insurance policy.

Having said that, the two questions arising are still of high importance –

  1. firstly, why was no interest charged on the rest of the Public Money advanced?
  2. Secondly, why was the low rate of 4.75% charged on that first tranche?

That rate is significantly less than the mortgage rate at that time, so how and why did a distressed borrower qualify for that kind of favour?

Lawrence Duprey. Photo courtesy the T&T Review

The return of Lawrence Duprey was the Sunday Express lead story on 15th January 2017 – ‘Rebirth of Duprey‘. This is one of those times when one is really sorry that an original suspicion was true.

We seem to be striding straight toward a precipice with no clear information at all about why, or how. The largest-ever special interest deal now seems set to return CL Financial to Lawrence Duprey and his cohort, which will be hugely detrimental to the public interest.

These bailout conditions in no way resemble the Wall St examples, despite the comical claims of its defenders that it was the same thing. There are three important differences –

  1. the CL shareholders kept their shares;
  2. the massive loan of over $20 Billion to the Caribbean’s wealthiest individual was made at a zero interest rate, that’s right, zero;
  3. the CL Financial chiefs were never required to give a public explanation of what caused this massive collapse.

Those terms were agreed by the Cabinet in January 2009. It is a real ‘sweetheart deal’ to assist Mr Duprey and his cohorts to a soft recovery so they could get back control of the companies when things improved. We are now reaping what our rulers sowed, hence the title of this article. Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – Bitter Brew”