Govt’s investments in housing sector “worth it” – Min. Croal

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
An aerial view of a housing scheme under development in Guyana

…as 70% of PPP/C’s housing plans already implemented

Housing and Water Minister Collin Croal on Thursday highlighted the overwhelming success of the Housing Ministry over the past four years, saying it is not an accident but a commitment of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration to deliver on its manifesto promises.

“The investment that this Government has made in the housing sector is worth it, and no amount of nitpicking by the [A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change] Opposition will stop us from realising the goal of 50,000 [house lot] allocations by 2025…,” he declared.

“There is unprecedented growth in the housing sector since our return to office; the sector is energized and stakeholders are motivated,” Croal said during his contribution to the ongoing budget 2024 debates in the National Assembly.

In responding to mounting criticisms from the Opposition about the housing sector, the subject Minister pointed out that it was not by accident that over 30,000 house lots had been allocated over the past four years, and so many new highways and community roads have been built. According to Croal, when the PPP/C took office in 2020, it found that the housing and water sectors were a “dismal failure” under the Coalition regime.

Housing Minister Collin Croal

“Despite the housing and water sectors seeing three ministers (and) a watered-down department, the APNU/AFC could not create the conditions critical to the sustainability of the sector,” he argued.

The minister noted that the distribution of titles and transports, as well as the allocation of house lots, had declined dramatically between 2015 and 2020, while there had been a backlog of 68,000 house lot applications in 2020. The water sector, he added, also did not fare better under the Coalition regime, with no notable improvements in the service or access to water, especially in hinterland areas.

Housing commitments

He noted that the PPP/C had consequently made several commitments in the housing and water sector, chief among which were the reversal of VAT on building materials; 50,000 house lot allocations in 5 years; reduction of processing time for applicants; construction of more access roads; investments in infrastructure in new and existing schemes; providing affordable housing financing through increased access to loans; and promoting homeownership among young people.

In the water sector, he said, reinstating the water subsidy for pensioners was a major priority for the Government, along with expanding access to treated water for more areas on the entire coastland. Upgrading the transmission and distribution of water across the country, and expanding the hinterland water access programme were also major priorities.

Achieving goals

According to Minister Croal, the Government has already achieved more than 70 per cent of the goals mentioned above; and in addition to the allocation of over 30,000 house lots, close to 7,000 land titles and transports have been distributed.

He said infrastructural works were done in more than 50 new housing schemes, over 23 kilometres of four-lane h,ighway have been completed, and works are in progress on more roadways.

“I am very proud that, within this very short period, we have accomplished so many highways. Investments like these don’t happen in a vacuum… We are establishing well-developed housing schemes with roads and bridges; drainage, electricity and access to potable water…

“Where are the highways and housing schemes done by [the Opposition]? Shamelessly, Mr Speaker, only three housing schemes were developed by the APNU/AFC between 2015 to 2020,” Housing Minister Croal has posited.

Croal went on to note that the Opposition is chasing scandals, and act as if there were no issues during their time of governance. However, he reminded of the “Durban Park gate, the parking meter gate, the plane gate, and, of course, the rigging gate.”

He added: “While they are singing about ‘friends, family, and favoured’, they are conveniently forgetting that their own minister was removed when it was discovered that her husband was benefitting from contracts in her own ministry.”

The Housing Minister’s comments were in response to Opposition Member of Parliament Annette Ferguson’s, who said the sector is of interest to her, she having served at the helm of the Housing Ministry under the Coalition Government. She had posited that there are malpractices within the Housing Ministry, which she said is marred by preferential treatment in the allocation of lands; corrupt practices, and substandard works.

Recycled arguments

However, Minister within the Housing and Water Ministry, Susan Rodrigues, during her Budget Debate presentation, posited that the APNU/AFC keeps bringing up recycled arguments about slush funds and corruption.

“There is no slush fund lying around the place to facilitate corruption… [The APNU/AFC] even said in their 2015 manifesto that there was 28 per cent to 35 per cent procurement fraud, and they will be able to save this money. Well, they went into government and didn’t find any corruption, but now some of their members are charged with fraud in the court,” she noted.

Rodrigues went on to say that the progress in the housing sector under the PPP/C Government is visible for all to see. She said many can feel it, touch it, and measure it, especially the thousands of people who have received their house lots in the last four years.

“…people who are receiving an asset for the first time in their lives. The APNU/AFC neglected housing for five years… The APNU /AFC are envious of the work in the housing sector now under the PPP/C, because they never understood it. It takes a carefully-crafted strategy to deliver affordable housing to every segment of our population across the 10 administrative regions. This is the most successful housing programme in our country’s history,” Rodrigues stated.