Property Matters – Sandals Shuffle

Property Matters – Sandals Shuffle

“…we are running a Country, not a Company…”
—Mia Mottley QC MP, Barbados PM – from her inaugural budget Wednesday, 20 March 2019

 

This title occurred to me due to the quiet backsliding of the main supporters of the Tobago Sandals project. This is the kind of situation where people thought they were operating safely in the dark, until someone suddenly opens the door and turns on the lights. The emergence of Sandals’ recent skirmishes have also reminded me of a shuffle.

Those shameless promoters told the public repeatedly about how satisfactory the existing arrangements were for State-owned hotels and went on to explain the special benefits of Sandals and so on and so forth. The steady exposure of the rickety arrangements for the existing hotels and the publication of the Tobago Sandals MoU have combined to end the scheme. Sunlight is really the best disinfectant. Continue reading “Property Matters – Sandals Shuffle”

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Property Matters – The Housing Gap part two

Property Matters – The Housing Gap part two

“Until all have crossed, none have crossed…and some we have to carry”
— the late Dr Pat Bishop TC… timeless…

“…The Housing Policy of the Government of Trinidad & Tobago is based on the understanding that every citizen should be able to access adequate and affordable housing regardless of gender, race, religion or political affiliation…”
(the emphases are mine)

 

Showing Trinidad and Tobago A New Way HomeThis is my second essay on the size and meaning of the Housing Gap. That is the gap between the beneficial intentions of the Housing Policy (2002) and the needs of the actual applicants, the neediest citizens, in this my Season of Reflection. The State Institution with responsibility to close that gap is the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). The Land Settlement Agency has responsibility for providing serviced lots but that is a minor part of the output.

The previous article opened by citing the little-known preamble to our Republican Constitution (1976), which affirms the principle of social justice by the operation of our country’s economic system to promote the common good. This week, my opening quotation is from the late artist, musician and commentator, Dr. Pat Bishop, in which important community values of assisting those least able to assist themselves are elevated. Almost socialist, in both expressions. I tell you. Continue reading “Property Matters – The Housing Gap part two”

CL Financial bailout – Fear of the Facts

PM issues Statement on CLICO Report of Sir Anthony David Colman, QC. Courtesy news.gov.tt

“…Whilst in the last five-year administration, the management of Clico, CLF and the associated companies were shrouded in secrecy by the UNC administration, this PNM Government has no intention of operating in that manner. This Government will operate in an open, transparent and accountable manner as it has been doing…“ (The emphases are mine)

—Extract from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statement to Parliament on the Colman Report on Friday, 1 July 2016.

SIDEBAR: 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 was interest-free and that was a clear indication of the ‘most-favoured’ status of the borrowers. With apologies to my readers, CLICO’s 2015 audited accounts, (which were issued on 17th October 2016) disclose at its 32nd note that 4.75% was charged on the first tranche of $5Bn which was lent in 2009, so my prior claims on that item are now withdrawn. That first advance was converted to 4.75% preference shares, so 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.

If we apply this approach to the CL Financial bailout the answer is instructive. So, one can assume that the total advanced is $25Bn with only 4.75% interest on the first $5Bn and no interest on any more of the Public Money advanced to CLF. Accordingly, 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%. Yes, less than 1% is the interest due from CLF for this epic loan. I tell you.

Once again, there are multiple versions of reality operating in relation to the CL Financial bailout, like some award-winning ScyFy movie. In one dimension, we have the PM accusing the previous regime of untoward secrecy while pledging to be open, transparent and accountable. In another dimension, we have a Minister of Finance promising to give us all the details of the monies spent on this bailout, while battling in the Appeal Court to overturn the High Court judgment I won to have those same details published. At the same time, Lawrence Duprey lobbies for the return of the CL Financial companies to him, while sidestepping any proper explanation of what went wrong. Both the PM and the Central Bank Governor label the CL Financial chiefs in scathing terms, while refusing to insist on proper commercial terms for the enormous financial assistance of the State. In yet another dimension, the State is said to be weathering a series of tough financial challenges, while showing stunning generosity to the wealthiest man in the Caribbean.

To paraphrase Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Junot Diaz – ‘ScyFy? What ScyFy?! The Antilles was Scyfy before there was ScyFy!

In July 2015, the High Court ruled in my favour that details of the CLF bailout were to be published by the Ministry of Finance, but that ruling has now been appealed.

Min of FInance, Colm Imbert, MP

The Ministry’s appeal, which was submitted on Friday 30th December 2016, has these main points –

  • CLF Accounts – The order to provide the accounts used by a previous Finance Minister to prepare a High Court affidavit is being contested as being a breach of legal professional privilege;
  • Parliamentary briefing – The order to provide the briefing to Independent Senators prior to debate on two laws on the CLF bailout is being contested as a breach of parliamentary privilege;
  • Who got paid? – The order to provide the names of those who were paid in the CLF bailout and the date of those payments is being contested as inimical to the confidentiality which a private person should enjoy.

Those arguments are only now being introduced, for the first time, during this appeal. That fact alone I consider to be unacceptable, but the points are being contested strongly and of course the Court of Appeal will be ruling on them.

For those readers who might consider the ScyFy comparison to be an overdone one, just consider how the Minister of Finance has approached the appeal with these further excerpts from Dr Rowley’s important address to the Parliament –

“…once the Minister of Finance has completed his on-going audit, he will come to Parliament and tell the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago the exact amount of money expended by the Government with respect to the said bailout. This will include the cost incurred by lawyers, accountants, professionals and all others. Furthermore, any and all disposal of assets from the group will be announced to the public in an open and transparent manner as well…”

At a time of economic sacrifice, the free-ticket given to CLF in January 2009, by the Patrick Manning-led Cabinet is being endorsed and renewed for further travel by the Keith Rowley-led Cabinet…this is where we are…

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”

The Colman Report

PM issues Statement on CLICO Report of Sir Anthony David Colman, QC. Courtesy news.gov.tt
PM issues Statement on CLICO Report of Sir Anthony David Colman, QC. Courtesy news.gov.tt

“…This country should rest comfortably in the knowledge that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago…will do nothing to impede the flow of justice in this or any matter. And we will do everything within its duty and authority to facilitate the holding to account any and all persons who may have been found to have questions to answer. Like every other citizen, it is our expectation that as rights to fair treatment are protected, justice must always take its course swiftly…”
—Extract from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s statement to Parliament on the Colman Report on Friday, 1 July 2016. The emphases are mine.

This season is always one of reflection and re-dedication for me, with the two month transition from Emancipation Day on 1 August to Independence on the 31 August, then onto Republic Day on 24 September. I always spend this spell in some sober reflection, in between the life. It seems to me that the very sequence of events and the consequent holidays in the season imbue it with an inner meaning in terms of a national transition to some kind of depth and purpose. Emancipation to Independence to Republican status…maybe that is just sentimental of me, but let us see.

If we are not vigilant, there is a real danger that the details of this entire CL Financial matter – both the failure of the group and the huge bailout – will be made to disappear in an epic legal mangle. There has never been a conviction for large-scale white collar crime in our country. The CL Financial collapse is such a serious episode that there is inescapable evidence which can ensure consequences. At the same time, the main players are so wealthy and influential that they can devise an effective way to avoid justice, unless we exercise vigilance in the public interest. Continue reading “The Colman Report”

Housing Policy Imperatives – part 6

I am bringing this analysis to a close by asking the question as to which individuals are ultimately responsible for this scandalous situation.  The age-old questions persist – Are we mere creatures of circumstance?  What influence can one individual have on transforming a situation?  Do modern outlooks over-emphasise the power of the individual?

We need to close the circle to understand the role of the high-powered individuals in charge of this policy.

The Author of the Policy

Calder Hart
Former HMB and UDeCOTT CEO, Calder Hart

Calder Hart, then CEO of Home Mortgage Bank and well-known to be a protégé of Andre Monteil’s, claimed to have authored our National Housing Policy – ‘Showing Trinidad & Tobago a new way home

In October 2002, Hart told me that in his office and he made a point of seeking my views of the new policy.

I questioned the originality, relevance and feasibility of the proposed policies and a frank discussion ensued.  It seemed clear, from Hart’s reaction and subsequent behaviour, that he had indeed taken authorship of that misguided policy.

That policy can be viewed at here.  Given their non-involvement in the later stages, it is interesting that the cover-page of the housing policy highlights UdeCOTT as a main state agency in its implementation.

The Minister of Housing

Keith Rowley
Former Min. of Housing, Dr. Keith Rowley, M.P.

The Minister of Housing with longest tenure through this period was Dr. Keith Rowley, M.P., currently leader of the Opposition PNM – he was in that office from  November 2003 to November 2007 – see http://www.ttparliament.org/members.php?mid=26&pid=5&id=KRO01.

The HDC was launched on 1st October 2005 to replace the National Housing Authority.  The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian newspaper reported Dr. Rowley’s remarks at that time – see http://legacy.guardian.co.tt/archives/2005-10-15/news7.html

Earlier, Rowley said the NHA was restructured because it lacked accountability.

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.

“…the HDC never published any accounts in the 5 years of its existence. It goes even further, since the NHA’s accounts for the period 2002 to 2004 have only recently been prepared.”

Continue reading “Housing Policy Imperatives – part 6”