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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05KINGSTON2720
2005-12-16 20:19:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Kingston
Cable title:  

PROPOSED OPIC INVESTMENT GUARANTY: POST VIEWS FROM

Tags:   EINV  ECON  JM  OPIC 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KINGSTON 002720 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CAR (WBENT), OPIC for Mary Mervenne

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINV ECON JM OPIC
SUBJECT: PROPOSED OPIC INVESTMENT GUARANTY: POST VIEWS FROM
JAMAICA

REF: SECSTATE 221570

-------
Summary
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1. (U) Post is responding to OPIC's request for comments and
recommendations regarding the proposed OPIC investment
guaranty to the National Housing Trust of Jamaica (NHT) in
connection with the plan by NHT to finance mortgages and
other costs associated with a low-income housing initiative
for greater Kingston (reftel). Post believes that the
proposed project makes sound financial sense, and will offer
significant social benefits, despite the possibility of
considerable default rates from the actual homeowners to the
NHT. End summary.



--------------------------


Background


--------------------------





2. (U) The National Housing Trust was established in 1976 to
address the housing shortage which resulted from a growing
population and the inadequate annual output of houses by the
public and private sectors. The Trust emerged out of the
need for a financial institution that could mobilize
additional funds for housing and ensure that those funds are
available to more Jamaican families at rates below the
traditional markets rates. The institution was given a
broad mandate to add to and improve the country's existing
supply of housing, and to enhance the usefulness of the
funds of the Trust by promoting greater efficiency in the
housing sector.



3. (U) The NHT is funded by a combination of personal and
corporate contributions. Employers are required to deduct
two percent of each employee's salary along with three
percent of their own wage bill and remit these funds to the
NHT on a monthly basis. Self-employed persons contribute two
percent or three percent of earnings depending on the
occupational category in which they fall. Under the NHT
Act, all employed persons, between the ages of 18 and 65,
who are earning the minimum wage and over must make
contributions to the Trust. As a result of this "Pay As You
Earn" (PAYE) system, the NHT is one of the most cash rich of
all the quasi-governmental agencies.



--------------------------


Post remarks


--------------------------





4. (U) Post has some concerns that there may be fairly
widespread defaults on the mortgages in this case, not only
because the recipients are from low-income households, but
also as a result of the moral hazard inherent in the
transaction: such families have little incentive to repay
NHT, as the units are in neighborhoods such that resale of a
repossessed property would be difficult and highly unlikely.
The fact that the OPIC loan will be repayed by the NHT, and
will not be linked to potential defaults, however, makes
this point moot from a financial perspective. Since its
inception, the NHT has been characterized by sound
stewardship of its considerable resources.



5. (SBU) Another point of which OPIC should be aware is that
the NHT has been used, and will almost certainly be used in
the future, for political leverage. While this is clothed
in the guise of social improvement, there is always a
political element in play. In this case, it is heartening
that the developments seem equally spread among both major
political parties. There are indications that this was not
the case when the idea for the project was germinating
several years ago, but the reality is that now it stands to
benefit neither party to a significantly greater degree than
the other.



6. (U) In terms of both transparency and stability, there
are no indications that OPIC should have concerns. There
have never been suggestions of impropriety among the NHT's
board to Post's knowledge. The thought of the NHT ceasing
to operate under any other political administration
(elections must be held by the end of 2007, but will likely
occur earlier) is untenable.



7. (U) The Inner City Housing Project is among the largest
that the NHT has ever undertaken. The OPIC loan will allow
NHT to allocate its assets to other construction activities
that are badly needed in the greater Kingston area. Post
believes that NHT's financial resources will ensure that
OPIC recoups its investment, and the social benefits that
will accrue to the greater Kingston area merit this foray
into historically unfamiliar territory for OPIC.

JOHNSON