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NHT Foundation financing won't affect refunds

NHT General Manager, Cecile Watson, speaks to concerns regarding a portion of unclaimed monies being diverted to create a foundation to help indigents and upgrade public institutions.

The National Housing Trust (NHT) says the J$600 million being set aside for the Government's new foundation to help indigents and upgrade public institutions is from funds unclaimed for at 17 years.

The trust also indicated that the foundation will have other sources of funding, tapped from the private sector and "civic-minded persons".

A budget for the new entity is still being worked on, and its terms of reference are still being developed, the agency said, responding to Sunday Business queries on how much would be required annually to run the entity and its programmes.

The initial funding is from a pool of J$1.2 billion of unclaimed contribution refunds, Prime Minister Bruce Golding said Tuesday in his contribution to the Budget Debate.

Refunds to NHT contributors become due in the eighth year after the initial payment to the trust, but are repaid only if persons put in a claim.

The NHT said Thursday that unclaimed funds are defined as monies for which no applications have been made for at least 10 years beyond the due date for reclamation.

"The total time these funds would have been here is a full 17 years. It is in the 18th year that the funds would be available to be used in the foundation," the trust said.

Additional financing

As more unclaimed funds are shifted to the pool over time, the foundation is likely to tap additional financing from that source, the NHT said.

Prime Minister Golding announced on May 10 that the new foundation will support improvements of living conditions for national luminaries who have brought Jamaica recognition internationally, and persons housed in state-run institutions, such as infirmaries, golden-age homes, and children's homes.

The NHT also revealed that even with the funds declared unclaimed for so long a period, contributors would still be refunded should they come forward.

"The NHT acknowledges and commits to meet its obligations to refund contributions once they are due and applications are received. As persons apply for these sums, they will be paid," it said.

The foundation will be overseen by a board, to comprise representatives of the Church, trade unions, and the private and public sectors.

"This board will examine proposals and determine how funds are to be allocated in accordance with pre-established criteria," said the NHT.

NHT general manager, Cecile Watson, also said in a statement that the diversion of funds to the foundation would not adversely affect the organisation's normal housing development and loans programmes.

"The trust will maintain its plans to spend J$25 billion to provide 8,574 new housing solutions in this financial year, and will be spending over J$127 billion to provide housing solutions over the next four years," Watson said.

"The trust has budgeted J$2.5 billion for contributions refunds in 2011-12 and is projecting to refund J$10 billion in the following three years. These levels are in accordance with its normal operational volumes."

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