Property Matters – Social Housing notes

The Rotary Club of Penal invited me to speak at their handing-over ceremony on Saturday 29th June 2019. My presentation summarised recent findings of my research into national policies and programs for social housing. I started that research in 2004 and the officials at the Housing Ministry and the NHA/HDC have always been supportive of my work over that period. I again thank them publicly – it is important to say that.

Showing Trinidad and Tobago A New Way HomeThe national housing policy (18th September 2002) states the provision of affordable housing for low and middle income applicants as its main objective. Having carefully examined the housing market and the details provided from the public officials, it is clear that the national program for social housing is not proceeding in conformity with the actual housing policy. I have closely examined the 16 years in which the housing policy was in effect 2003 to 2018.

This article will be light on my analysis of those figures, because sometimes the facts can be more effective than anything I could write, this is one of those times. Continue reading “Property Matters – Social Housing notes”

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VIDEO: Speech at Rotary Club of Penal event – 29 June 2019

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Outgoing president Narda Ramkissoon present Afra Raymond with a token of appreciation after his address at the Penal Rotary Club handing over ceremony. Photo courtesy Rotary Club of Penal.

penal rotary logoThis is the recording from Saturday, 29 June 2019 at Rotary Club of Penal’s Handing Over Ceremony at which guest speaker Afra Raymond spoke on the national housing policy and programme of Trinidad and Tobago. Video courtesy Rotary Club of Penal.

Programme Length: 00:32:02
Programme Date: 29 June 2019

Property Matters – Hyatt Regency notes

What are the underlying commercial arrangements in relation to our State-owned hotels? Is there any reason to think that these arrangements operate to our benefit, or is there genuine cause for concern?

My efforts to sift the evidence are ongoing in the face of this carefully crafted confusion.

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Hyatt Regency Trinidad

Hyatt Regency is reputedly the most successful of the three State-owned hotels, so one would imagine any government would be eager to share news of those good results. The total Public Money invested in Hyatt Regency is $854M to date and that hotel opened in January 2008, so what return has the State earned on that investment? Certain limited tax and performance details for those hotels emerged after I started in 2016 to question the widespread unawareness of the underlying commercial arrangements in our State-owned hotels. I am not querying those taxation or profit details, indeed how could anyone, in the absence of audits or tax transparency?

These few details have been intentionally presented so as to hinder any real analysis, one has to wonder why. Continue reading “Property Matters – Hyatt Regency notes”

Property Matters – The Show Tell Hotel

Tax transparency is the series of laws or rules to require businesses or people to disclose their income earned and taxes paid.

What re-ignited my interest in this was the recent Daily Mail article on the Florida lawsuit against Sandals Resorts International (SRI) by a former guest on allegations of tax fraud. The allegation is that the 12% accommodation tax charged to guests at Beaches in the Turks & Caicos Islands was not all remitted to the government, with a significant percentage of those monies kept by SRI (owners of Beaches).

beaches-tandc

SRI has denied those allegations and will be fighting the case strongly, but I wondered – just how did that guest get enough information to decide to file this lawsuit? Recently in the TCI there has been serious political fallout arising from certain secret tax and duty concessions to SRI now being published, which once again shows just how imperative it is to have transparency. Without those secret deals having been disclosed, how would that person know they were being charged in the incorrect and dishonest way as alleged in their lawsuit? Continue reading “Property Matters – The Show Tell Hotel”

Property Matters – New Public Housing

“…that this is “a defining moment for the housing construction industry in Trinidad and Tobago”, the Minister stated that “the Government through agencies like the HDC, remains committed to providing affordable, well-designed housing accommodation and adequate infrastructure and amenities for the various low and middle income citizens…”
—Statement by Housing and Urban Development Minister, Major-General Edmund Dillon at launch of the HDC’s latest housing initiative.

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HDC Chairman, Newman George (seated, second from right) presents a copy of the signed agreement to Zhou Xing, Executive Vice President, CGGC. Looking on are Lui, Huailiang, General Manager, CGGC (left) and HDC Managing Director, Brent Lyons. Also witnessing are (standing from left) Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry; Attorney General and MP for San Fernando West, Faris Al Rawi; Chinese Ambassador to T&T, Song Yumin; Housing and Urban Development Minister, Major General (ret’d)Edmund Dillon; Minister of Public Administration and MP for Port of Spain South and Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Dennis Moses. Photo credit: The HDC

On Friday 17 May 2019, the HDC signed contracts for an extensive program of new public housing with China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co. Ltd (CGGC). The arrangement is that CGGC will design, finance and construct 5,000 new homes for the HDC in phases.

The first two-year phase is for 204 flats at South Quay in POS and 235 at Lady Hailes Avenue in San Fernando at a cost of $71,739,411 USD. The contract sum for the first phase was stated in USD, which raises for me questions as to why it was not stated in TTD. The contract sum is equivalent to $490M TTD, so the average cost per unit exceeds $1.1M. That does not count the land of course, since we always seem to place no value on the land. Continue reading “Property Matters – New Public Housing”

VIDEO: Interview on The Morning Brew on new Chinese housing contract

CNC3 LogoAfra Raymond sits with Hema Ramkissoon on the Morning Brew to discuss the newly revealed public-private agreement to finance and build 5,000 apartment units in Port of Spain and San Fernando with China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co Ltd (CGGC). Opinions on whether this is a good deal or not. Video courtesy CNC3 Television.

Programme Length: 00:10:40
Programme Date: Wednesday, 22 May 2019