Kisses for Kamla, houses for 50

Speaking at a handing-over ceremony on the second-floor of the HDC offices at South Quay, Port-of-Spain, Persad-Bissessar said the Government will push ahead with a housing programme which could provide jobs for 30,000 currently unemployed in the construction sector. Her Housing Minister, Dr Roodal Moonilal, yesterday announced that a sod-turning ceremony to start the next phase of State housing construction is scheduled for later this month.

The Prime Minister presented keys for houses to Errol Ramah; Janwantee Pollard, Nisha and Devanand Parsan, Ricky Singh, Ted Seelochan and Zanat Newaldass: all persons who lost their homes through fire. She also presented home improvement grants to eleven people and oversaw the presentation of keys for about 46 persons.

One after the other, the apparently elated beneficiaries went up to the Prime Minister, shook her hand and kissed her on the cheek. So much so that at one point Persad-Bissessar was forced to lay down some ground-rules at the event.

“Listen, let’s put some ground-rules in place,” she said. “The ladies can kiss and the men can shake hands.” Members of the audience gathered at the HDC conference room burst into laughter. After the Prime Minister issued the request, only women kissed her on the cheek. Men appeared sheepish as they shook hands with her.

The outpouring of affection was in sharp contrast with the aggressive stance of farmers outside the building who have refused to relocate crops to lands provided by the State free of charge in the wake of a crop bulldozing incident on Easter Monday. In a feature address, Persad-Bissessar did not allude to current tensions with some protesting farmers but noted that the State intends to move forward with its housing drive. Several plots of land on which farmers have been squatting are scheduled for the construction of houses.

“The construction jobs created addresses the needs of 30,000 currently unemployed in the construction sector,” Persad-Bissessar said. “This will result in a multiplier effect.” She noted that the Governor of the Central Bank has called for greater investment in the economy.

“We have so many houses to build and we will build these houses,” she said.

“The need for housing surrounds us everyday and this is why the provision of housing by the State must continue,” she said. “The reality is stark: the declining stock, increasing demand, the increasing needs of the people who continue to rent in private accommodations.”

“As a Government, we want to see the Ministry of Housing and the Environment continue to thrive and expand and build more affordable housing through its agency, the HDC because we have an enormous need out there in our communities,” she said.

“We will try to do that further kick-starting in the economy. The economy is indeed growing but what we have to do is make it grow more,” Persad-Bissessar told reporters later.

Moonilal said yesterday’s visit to the HDC was the first ever visit of a sitting Prime Minister to the HDC offices at South Quay. He urged the HDC beneficiaries to take care of the houses handed over to them.

“Please treat your houses in the sacred manner that they deserve to be treated,” he said. He urged recipients to build communities and develop links. He noted the anguish that the demand for housing has created.

“Over the years people come to this building with tears in their eyes and they feel depressed,” he noted. Of the State housing plan, he said, “later this month we expect to turn the sod for the next phase of building. We are under extreme pressure but the Housing Ministry will stand up and the HDC will stand up.”

In attendance at yesterday’s event was HDC managing director Jearlean John. Of John, the Prime Minister heaped praises. “We are very proud to have a very powerful woman, a very strong woman in the form of Jearlean John,” she said.

John told the beneficiaries gathered that the HDC “tries hard everyday” to meet the heavy demand for housing. She noted that among the applicants for houses are victims of domestic violence, the homeless, “those in the grips of landlords”.

“The HDC is there to help you,” John said.


"Kisses for Kamla, houses for 50"

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