Rodrigues raps APNU/AFC for its incompetence in housing sector during term in office

Minister within the Ministry of Housing and Water, Susan Rodrigues, has highlighted the incompetence of the coalition A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) party in the housing and water sector during its term in office.

Minister within the Ministry of Housing and Water,
Susan Rodrigues

On Thursday, during her budget presentation, the Minister stated that during the coalition’s term in office, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) had no clear leadership and policy directions, as it had issued only a meagre 7,534 house lots in four years.
“The sector (was) lethargic and non-productive, a meagre 7,534 house lots were distributed in 5 years; a figure which we have long surpassed in only one year of Government,” she said.
“If the honorable member Ferguson, or the other Housing Ministers that were there under their Government, had been productive, we would not have found a backlog of 70,000 applicants as of the 2nd of August 2020, when we came into Government,” the Minister related.

The Young Professionals Housing Scheme being developed

According to Rodrigues, the APNU/AFC did not, in its 2016, 2017 and 2018 budgets, allocate funds for any housing project.
“It’s simple. In order to produce house lots, in order to have the infrastructure in the housing schemes, you need money. (With) no monies produced for housing, how else can you produce house lots? How else can infrastructural work be done in your housing schemes so that allottees can access their lands?” she asked rhetorically.
“In 2019, when they faced a vote of no confidence, that is when they found the first allocation in the budget for housing; that is when they made the first set of money available for housing,” she charged.
“(Besides) not providing house lots, they neglected infrastructure works in the housing areas, and this led to several consequences. Apart from people not being able to access their house lots, it also led for them and for us to be unable to hand over housing schemes to the NDCs, because the infrastructure was not done in those areas,” she explained.

Homes being constructed at Prospect under the PPP/C Govt

The Minister also mentioned what is considered the “failed duplex initiative” under the former administration.
“The failed duplexes…under the honorable Valerie Patterson. They came up with a bright idea to deliver duplex units, which has two occupancies, has two houses in one, on one portion of land. When they introduced this housing solution, they failed to amend the legislation to ensure that the allottees who would get one of these duplexes would be able to get their title.
“Our law does not provide for that, and they did not amend the law to ensure that these people can have title or transport to their land…
“They charged 6.8 million dollars per duplex; this is more than our allottees are paying for a low-income house now, where they are on a plot of land by themselves and they can have a title to their land,” the Minister related.
In relation to the water sector, Minister Rodrigues said that upon taking office, this Government had many issues and challenges to deal with. Those included major financial challenges, such as the Guyana Water Incorporated owing the Guyana Power and Light $7 million.
“The company’s (GWI’s) financial position was in a dire state, as it could not meet its financial obligations to suppliers, and restocking of basic materials was unavailable. The company’s ineffective leadership and lavish spending led to an increase in operating costs by 1.1 billion dollars in the 5 years that they (APNU/AFC) were in office. The bank balances decreased during those 5 years by 1.8 billion dollars. There were 2 water tariff increases under the APNU/AFC, one in 2018 and one in 2019, which totalled 87 per cent increase in water tariffs.
“And among (this) totalling, $800 million was owed to suppliers; 4 years’ financial statements were not audited; we are completing those. The Public Procurement rules were being breached by the director then, Richard Van West-Charles, to facilitate the purchase of a questionable water treatment chemical, SeaQuest, for iron content; 1.8 billion dollars was spent to procure this product, and the product was found to be ineffective in treating water in most of the wells,” she explained.
The Minister also stated that over 5,000 customers were denied service connections because the basic inventory levels were not available.
“The most ridiculous one yet was that the Guyana Water Inc had a container on John Fernandes Wharf with well maintenance parts since 2017. It was cleared when we came into Government in September of 2020,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Minister noted that this administration has rejuvenated and revitalised the sectors that the former administration had corrupted.
She said this administration’s goal is to provide a better quality of life for all, and she highlighted that Government would follow through to implement the promise made to the people in the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) manifesto. Among those promises is a commitment to creating 10,000 house lots annually; investing in support infrastructure in existing and new housing schemes; reversing VAT on building materials; facilitating affordable financing for home ownership; promoting home ownership, particularly among youths and professionals; promoting partnership with, and incentivising, Private Sector involvement.
“I am pleased to report to this house that, to date, we have already accomplished all of the commitments I just listed from our manifesto, including the allocation of 10,000 house lots. And out of that, 3,926 house lots went to women in their own right; women as the sole applicant, with no other applicant on their application,” Minister Rodrigues explained.