Monday, April 22, 2024

BLP COLUMN: The big sell-out


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The rich man is always sold to the institution which makes him rich. Absolutely speaking, the more money, the less virtue.” –  Henry David Thoreau
The horror of the details surrounding the contractual arrangements between the National Housing Corporation and Housing Concepts SRL for construction of the Villages at Coverley would make even the late Joy Edwards blush.
The large crowd at Haggatt Hall last Sunday night was stunned into disbelief to learn from our political leader Mia Mottley that over 100 acres of our land held in trust by the Minister of Housing and Lands had virtually been given away to the developers.
Mia reminded the attentive crowd that a 220 000 square feet for commercial buildings had been leased to Housing Concepts for 99 years for $100 a year.
She then went on to provide the details for the rest of the 98 acres at Coverley, amidst cries from the crowd of “Shame!” and “Michael got to go!”
She revealed that the NHC will be paid the modest sum of $3 per square foot for every lot sold less the expenses of the sale. The NHC will also get one and a half per cent of the purchase price for every house that is sold less the cost the NHC receives from the land sale. Sounds like a decent deal doesn’t it.
The fact is though that the one and a half per cent on the houses never exceeds the value of the land price so the NHC will only get the $3 less the expenses.
Then there is the $1 200 (and increasing) maintenance fee that the houseowners must pay the developers per year to keep the place clean and tidy and to run the sewage system.
On top of this, nothing is to be paid by the land taken up by roads and post boxes. The NHC is expected to earn $10 million while the developers will rake in over $1 billion in this one development.
We know the Government is way behind the curve on their promise to provide 2 000 houses a year. Is Lashley so desperate to impress that any deal will do or are there other considerations to which the public is not privy?
Prime Minister David Thompson has returned home and has said he is eager to get back to work. We hope he is well rested and recovering. He has also said he will be meeting with his Cabinet and public officers over the next few days.
We trust that he will invite Michael Lashley to provide a full and frank disclosure on the Villages project in the interest of transparency and accountability.
The Barbados Labour Party understands that a cash-strapped Government has few options and for this reason a public/private partnership is an attractive alternative. However, Barbadians still expect the best deal possible for their land.
Nobody expects their Government to give away our inheritance while the other partner reaps huge profits. Neither do they expect that one consortium will be given the bulk of the work. There is no fairness in such an approach and it is yet another betrayal of the promise by the Dems to give more work to small entrepreneurs.
The Chinese whispers about this project and others abound. Perhaps it is time for the Prime Minister to demand that his Cabinet provides a statement of their assets both on appointment and now.


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