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The land is not free

Moonilal ready for Tuesday’s ‘lotto’ draw:

By Irene Medina Associate Editor

Minister of Housing, Land and Marine Affairs Dr  Roodal Moonilal said yesterday there would be “fairness and transparency” in next Tuesday’s historic lotto draw for plots of lands by some 10,000 applicants, which would be monitored by accounting firm Ernst and Young.

Moonilal also made it clear that the “land is not for free,” and the Ministry was working out a proper structure to accommodate low-income earners.  

The Housing Minister held a pre-draw media conference at the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) at Orange Grove Estate, Tacarigua, where officials of Ernst and Young were engaged in placing some 10,000 ballots of potential recipients into boxes in preparation for next Tuesday’s draw at the Southern Academy of the Performing Arts, (SAPA) San Fernando.

Moonilal said that the Land for the Landless Programme was launched in November last year, during which time, application forms were given to all 41 MPs as well as municipal corporations, and other offices of Government. 

“I have been told that we have received in excess of 40,000 applicants for land, so far.”

He added, “This is the first major land distributing programme in the history of independent Trinidad and Tobago and we expect to deliver 10,000 lots over a three-year period.”

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is expected to preside over the distribution of the 500 plots of serviced house lots on Tuesday.

Moonilal explained that the 10,000 names represent a shortlist from the LSA’s database of persons who met the criteria for the acquisition of land. The boxes in which the shortlisted names are placed were escorted to Ernst and Young offices under police escort yesterday and will be delivered to SAPA on Tuesday, again under the watchful eyes of the police. 

According to Moonilal, “We have asked accounting firm Ernst and Young to take control of the process to ensure fairness and transparency.

“Over the years we recognised we have almost 150,000 applicants for houses, but in some instances, a lot of those applicants, especially those in the lower income group preferred to build their own houses, once they got the land.”

He assured that the Ministry would provide guidance and technical support, and in some cases construct a concrete foundation, and provide a loan at a very small interest rate, and other facilities depending on the economic circumstances of successful applicants.

Moonilal described the lotto draw system as an “extremely bold initiative of the LSA,” adding that because of the very high demand for houses, and long waiting list, spanning some 15 to 25 years, his Ministry was taking a holistic approach to the problem. 

“Our intention is to liaise with the private sector to develop a collaborative approach so the private sector can contribute in providing houses to citizens in T&T,” he said. 

As it now stands, Moonilal said his Ministry distributes three houses a day and hardly a day passes when someone is not asking for a house. 

“This Land for the Landless programme was inspired by the Prime Minister, who mandated early in her administration that we needed to develop a programme for land distribution,” according to Moonilal. 

He reiterated, “The land is not free, people will pay...”

The lots are valued between $200,000 to $300,000 but will be sold at subsidised cost of $12 a square foot for plots comprising between 3,000 to 5,000 square foot. 

As to the integrity of the lotto process, the paper on which persons’ ID numbers are written are water-marked and cannot be replicated. 

Initially the house lots will be given out in the San Fernando areas while other plots are being developed. 

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