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Sands criticizes Christie on mortgage relief plan

  • Dr. Duane Sands. FILE

Guardian Staff Reporter

Published: May 10, 2013

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Following Prime Minister Perry Christie’s comments that four or five people may qualify for the government’s mortgage relief plan, former Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) Chairman Dr. Duane Sands said yesterday that it is sad that the government is unwilling to admit that the plan has failed.

“With all of the failures this government has had, one thing they have not had is embarrassment, humility and regret,” Sands said.

“No one in this Cabinet or government has admitted that this has been a tough year or that ‘we made some promises that were outrages and we regret doing so, but we are going to get to work and need the public to help’.”

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) celebrated its first year in office on Tuesday.

Though the mortgage relief plan was supposed to help more than 1,000 households, Christie said on Wednesday that “four or five” struggling homeowners might benefit from the much-maligned plan.

Sands said he’s happy if those people benefit, but Christie should not be celebrating.

“I think it is sad that a national program which has been in the works for more than 18 months, which has evoked reaction from all quarters – the banking sector the business sector, the opposition, international rating agencies, et cetera – was perused with great dismissiveness by the government only to find out now that [it is] a failure,” he said.

“The chief executive of this country is unwilling to admit that perhaps he doesn’t have all the answers, that perhaps maybe some other people can make a contribution to national development and problem solving.”

Minister of State for Finance Michael Halkitis previously said that no one qualified for the plan and the government was going back to the drawing board with it.

“This dismissive comment that somehow yes three or four or five people have benefited, God bless them,” he said.  “I’m happy if a single person benefits, but I think the prime minister missed the point that very early on the PLP was advised that this was a harebrained idea, that it could not work, that it would not work.”

Shortly before the May 2012 general election, the then Opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) revealed a 10-point plan to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

Included in that original plan announced last April were pledges to get local banks to agree to a 120-day moratorium on foreclosures and to write off 100 percent of unpaid interest and fees for those facing foreclosure.

The original plan raised alarm in some circles and the international ratings agency Moody’s warned that it could be harmful.

According to the government’s figures, at the time the plan was presented in Parliament last September, there were around 4,000 homeowners in arrears.

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