Property Matters – St Augustine Nurseries part two

Property Matters – St Augustine Nurseries part two

The previous column detailed the ways in which this HDC project was being pursued in breach of existing land and housing policy. In this article I will go further, to specify the HDC’s statutory responsibilities, which it is legally bound to discharge. I will also examine the potential for a judicial review of the prospective decision to approve this project.

In addition to the land-use policy points made last week, the HDC is a statutory agency of the State, created by the HDC Act 2005. The HDC’s functions and duties are specified at S.13 (1) –

“…13. (1) Subject to this Act, it shall be the function and duty of the Corporation to—
(a) do all things necessary and convenient for or in connection with the provision of affordable shelter and associated community facilities for low- and middle-income persons…”

The law lists the low-income persons ahead of the middle income persons, which would conventionally denote a priority. The first item in a list taking precedence over the second and so on, but that is straight-line thinking and that is not where we are. Not at all.

HDC’s official responses to my queries stated that less than 22% of the 13,484 new homes allocated between 2003 and 2015 were given for rent. That is a scandalous misallocation of Public Money, given that 95% of the waiting-list comprises persons who cannot afford to buy a home, even on the most generous terms.

Last week, the PM announced plans for a $9 Billion investment in 10,000 new homes to be built in the coming months. That is a virtually unattainable target. Just remember that the original target in the 2002 housing policy was for 100,000 new homes in a decade, but in the 13-year period 2003-2015 only 11,788 new homes were completed. Yes, that’s right, the numbers do not match. HDC allocated 1,696 more homes than were completed in that period, but that is for another article. Continue reading “Property Matters – St Augustine Nurseries part two”

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Property Matters – Eden Gardens case

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In November 2016, the State filed its lawsuit against certain former Public Officials and their presumed collaborators for alleged fraud in the HDC’s 2012 purchase of 50.5 acres at Eden Gardens in Freeport. The defendants named in that lawsuit were – Jearlean John (former HDC Managing Director), Henckle Lall (former HDC chairman), Greg Davis (former deputy HDC chairman), Peter Forde, Project Specialist Ltd, former commissioner of valuations Ronald Heeralal, Point Lisas Park Ltd, Anthony Sampath, Patrick Soon Ting and lastly, Everil Ross, who was formerly attached to the Valuation Division.

On 17th April 2018, the High Court dismissed the State’s lawsuit when it refused to grant the State further extensions of time to file its full case. That has been claimed by the defendants as a form of exoneration. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing.
Continue reading “Property Matters – Eden Gardens case”

CL Financial bailout – the EFPA Details, part one

CL Financial bailout – the EFPA Details, part one

Declaration

I was a Director of the Trinidad Building & Loan Association (1999-2013) when that organisation purchased EFPA investments and also when those sums were recovered during the bailout via the issue of 20-year bonds.

On Thursday, 22nd March 2018, the Ministry of Finance & The Economy, sent details of EFPA payments (in partial satisfaction of the Appeal Court’s Consent Order of 24th January 2018) under cover of a transmittal letter from the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.

The details provided are for payments of $10.8 Billion in Public Money to EFPA account holders between March 2011 and March 2015. That was an average payout of over $220M TTD per month in that four-year period and would correspond with the September 2011 Parliamentary approval for an additional $10.7 Billion to be spent on the CL Financial bailout. This all raises interesting issues as to the timing of these payments, as shown in this table –

PERIOD Minister of Finance statements on bailout costs EFPA payment details from Ministry of Finance COMMENTS
BEFORE 3rd April 2012 affidavit of Winston Dookeran Para 21 “…(a) $5.0Bn already provided to CLICO;
(b) $7.0Bn paid to holders of the EFPA…”
$6,229,920,482 There is an apparent discrepancy between these figures in the amount of $770,079,518
BETWEEN 3rd April 2012 and 1st October 2012 “…The cost to the national community has been substantial—an amount of $19.7 billion or 13.0 per cent of our current GDP $3,144,270,326 Larry Howai’s 2013 budget statement was that $7.7 Billion had been spent on the CLF bailout after Winston Dookeran’s affidavit. The details from the Ministry of Finance show that only $3.144 Billion of that could be attributable to EFPA payments.
AFTER 1st October 2012 Estimates have ranged from $20 Billion to the $27.7 Billion estimate on 10th May 2017 by the current Minister, Colm Imbert. $1,449,184,402 The Public Money spent after that date exceeds an estimated $6.0 Billion, only a part of which went to EFPA account holders.
$10,823,375,210

Continue reading “CL Financial bailout – the EFPA Details, part one”

VIDEO: Webinar featuring Caribbean Economist Marla Dukharan and leading Trinidadian Transparency Activist Afra Raymond

VIDEO: Webinar featuring Caribbean Economist Marla Dukharan and leading Trinidadian Transparency Activist Afra Raymond

This is the video for the recent webinar in which we discuss the recently-released Corruption Perception Index:

  • The current state of corruption in Trinidad & Tobago
  • From accountability to enforcement: What is missing?
  • Specific steps that need to be taken to improve transparency

Programme Date: 6 March 2018
Programme length: 57:12

AUDIO: Interview on Business corner on Power 102 FM – 5 March 2018

power102fmPower 102.1 FM interview with Ms Sandrine Rattan on e-tendering within the new Public Procurement system with Afra Raymond, Moonilal Lalchan, Chairman of the Office of Procurement Regulation and Keino Cox, Chairman of TSTT’s Tenders Committee. Audio courtesy Power 102 FM

  • Programme date: Monday 5th February 2018
  • Programme length:  00:09:06 and 00:16:16


Property Matters – Digital Transformation in our Tourism?

Property Matters –  Digital Transformation in our Tourism?

On 2 February 2018, the Ministry of Tourism announced its upcoming symposium – ‘Digital Transformation within the Tourism Sector‘ – as a major event on Friday 23 February 2018, in conjunction with Massy Technologies and featuring speakers from Microsoft and IBM.

This is an ambitious project intended to examine big-data, the cloud, the digital customer experience and the prospects of the hospitality industry in our country. As such, these proposals should have our principled support, but there is real cause for a pause here, given the distinct reluctance of the State’s agencies to answer our queries on the agreements and performance of the large State-owned hotels.

The three largest hotels in our country are State-owned – Trinidad Hilton; Magdalena Grand (formerly known as Tobago Hilton) and Hyatt Regency – comprising about 45% of the established hotel rooms, at the better end of the market. The amount of Public Money invested via capital outlay in those hotels is estimated, from the public record, in the first sidebar. But what is of deeper interest to me is that far larger sums of money are generated in the operations of those hotels than the capital spent to create the actual facilities. Those sums are spent on rooms, meals, drinks, rentals for functions and so on.

We almost never get any real open discussion on the actual revenues of these hotels or the arrangements for sharing those monies between the State as property owner and the hotel operator. Continue reading “Property Matters – Digital Transformation in our Tourism?”