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Minister: Help starting professionals buy land too

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

Minister of Land and Marine Resources Jairam Seemungal has asked the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance company (TTMF) to make recommendations for changes in Government’s “Land for the Landless” programme to accommodate young professionals who fall outside of the $8,000 income bracket requirement.  

Seemungal raised the question yesterday during the Joint Select Committee Meeting on the TTMF at Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

He told TTMF chief executive Ingrid Lashley he would be happy if the income bracket could be adjusted.

“A young engineer now coming out of school on contract, his salary is $12,000. He would definitely come out of this ($8,000 bracket). 

“A young doctor coming out of school approaching this institution for the first time is in excess of $8,000 and they are the ones who are always left on the sidelines, because we generally cater for the very poor and the very rich are taken care of, but the persons between those need to be taken care of as well. 

“Are you all giving consideration to even apply to the ministry for variation of this $8,000 to even lift the bar to  the minimum young professionals, at least to about $12,000?” he asked.

In response, Lashley said the TTMF had made proposals to the Ministry of Finance and the Economy to raise the limit to $10,000 and then another time to $12,000.

“They have not taken action on it yet but we are ready when they are,” she added.

Seemungal also asked about a possible adjustment to the two per cent mortgage rate for families whose income does not exceed $8,000 and the value of the property (land and building) not exceeding $625,000. 

He said most of the lands, even in the Land for the Landless programme in South and Central were valued at $500,000 and up.

“Are you giving consideration of an adjustment whereby the first $625,000 at the two per cent and thereafter at the higher interest?” he asked.

 Lashley said the flexibility of the two per cent mortgage programme was not within the TTMF’s discretion.

 However, they had gone back to the Ministry of Finance to make adjustments in cost rather than value in respect of Caroni lands.

Asked about the merger of the TTMF and the Home Mortgage Bank she said Pricewaterhouse Coopers was appointed transaction advisers for the first phase of the investigation into whether there should be a merger between TTMF and HMB.

On January 6, PWC provided a report to the stakeholders—National Insurance Board, TTMF, HMB and the Ministry of Finance—recommending that phase one be closed with a move to phase two which would see the merger under a holding company.

“In other words, TTMF will remain whole, HMB will remain whole and be wholly-owned subsidiaries of a company to be called Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Bank. 

It is our understanding that the report and appropriate recommendations are to be made to the Cabinet and we will be guided thereafter,” she said.

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