Housing sector fell apart under APNU/AFC – Rodrigues
…provides evidence showing house lot allocations nosedived after 2015
The former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Government was on Monday put on the spot by Minister within the Ministry of Housing Susan Rodrigues, who came armed with data to contend that the housing sector fell apart under their tenure.
Among the data she presented during Day One of the 2021 Budget Debates was the budget allocations for the housing sector under the pre-2015 People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government and APNU/AFC.
“The PPP Government’s housing budget in 2013, was $3.2 billion. In 2014, it was $4.4 billion. In stark contrast, Mr Speaker, APNU/AFC’s housing budget in 2015 was reduced to $1.9 billion,” the Minister explained.
“Let us not forget, there was no Ministry of Housing and Water, there was no clear housing policy. There was no clear vision or housing drive. They changed Ministers like they change clothes. And hence, the Housing Ministry and sector fell apart!”
Minister Rodrigues acknowledged that in 2016, $5.8 billion was allocated by the former APNU/AFC Government to the housing sector. However, she also referenced news reports showing that for that year, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) woefully underutilised those monies.
“Mr Speaker, the story of that year would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic… CH&PA spent only 12 per cent of budgeted $5.8 billion in 2016. If this isn’t incompetence, then I don’t know what is. And the Housing Minister at the time, Valarie Patterson, said she was definitely not happy. So, if she wasn’t happy, I don’t know about the people.”
According to Rodrigues, at the time the former Government had blamed CH&PA and human resource challenges for the shortfall in expenditure. But the Minister pointed out that since the PPP Government entered office, the agency’s technical staff have remained largely untouched. Which therefore begs the question, why was the agency underperforming under the former Government?
“It is the same staff who were there in 2016, who are there today, we didn’t fire anybody. We didn’t fire the technical staff. It’s the same people there today, executing our mandate. It is the same technical people who designed and are bringing to fruition, the Eccles to Diamond bypass road. And have already designed and begun procurement for the four-lane highway linking Mandela to Eccles.”
“It is the same technical people who worked to allocate lands and 3600 house lots in our first four months in office. The only difference is now we have a competent Government in place. Vision, competence and leadership, is what was missing, but it has returned!” Minister Rodrigues informed the House.
She further pointed out that in 2017, the former Government decided to not make any budgetary allocations for CH&PA, telling the agency to fund its own housing programme. According to the Minister, the housing drives of the two Governments are incomparable.
“They simply had no vision for the housing sector and so they wouldn’t be able to spend the money even if it was allocated. The PPP Government allocated over 22,000 house lots in our last four years in office. Contrast that with the 7000 they allocated in their five years in office!”
Since coming to office, the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Government has made it clear that it intends to fulfil its manifesto promise of distributing 50,000 house lots over the next five years, with the first 10,000 by this year.
Among the initiatives the Government had announced were being considered is the establishment of a Diaspora Housing Fund. President Dr Irfaan Ali had also revealed that Government is looking at other areas of securing financing for the housing sector. This includes efforts to raise some US$250 million for housing projects.
Additionally, the Ministry of Housing will also be working with the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL); the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) and the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) to pursue land acquisition for housing developments.
And last year, the Government published invitations for Expressions of Interest (EoIs) from interested parties to finance housing development. This publication had reported that there is local and foreign interest in funding the Government’s housing drive, thus resulting in Government creating a shortlist out of these investors vying for investment opportunities in the housing sector. (G3)