Former President Bharrat Jagdeo, speaking at a media engagement with members of the local press corps at his Church Street Office yesterday, added his voice to the growing public debate regarding private developers who have inked agreements with the State’s Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) and are now in breach of their obligations.
He has said action should be taken against them, since the agreements and obligations entered into under such agreements are enforceable by the State.
Swaths of land had been sold to private developers during the People’s Progressive Party/Civic’s (PPP/C’s) tenure in office, but developers have now found themselves embroiled in court and other public battles over perceived wrong-doings.
Jagdeo, now Opposition Leader, told reporters the impression is being conveyed that the deals the PPP/C has entered with private developers were corrupt transactions, and this Administration is helpless to enforce those contracts. He said another impression being conveyed is that the developers owe the state millions of dollars; and furthermore, some of them might have profiteered by selling off their lands to other parties for higher prices.
Jagdeo steadfastly maintained that any arrangement entered into between the PPP/C Administration and private developers had came out of a public process wherein Government had sought private capital and assistance in accelerating its housing programme.
Referring to a 2010 advertisement which called for Expressions of Interest for housing development along the lower East Bank Demerara Corridor (Eccles to Mocha), the Opposition Leader said that public plea had outlined all of the conditions that were expected of the private developers, and that engagement was a public process.
He said proposals were submitted, and the developers acquired lands that were bound by a contract and sold at a particular price in exchange for commitments to invest in the projects, and to develop them so that the housing programme could develop even faster.
According to Jagdeo, “Each of these developers would have a contract with conditions that they have to meet to get, and develop, the land. If they breach any of these conditions, then the Government has the authority, the power, to enforce these contracts.”
Referring to lands that had been transferred in 2014, Jagdeo remind that although the reports implicate him as President at the time, he had already demitted office since 2011.
“I know that once is Kaieteur News (reporting), everything they going to say is (going to implicate) Jagdeo,” he said.
Referring to recent reports repeatedly being carried by that daily implicating an employee of Dr Ranjisinghi ‘Bobby’ Ramroop as having profiteered, the former president said he inquired of the then Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali, as to whether that transaction was subject to a public process, and had received an affirmative response. According to Jagdeo, he was told that the contract was a standard one that had gone through the public process.
Ali had, a day earlier, in a public missive, also debunked assertions being peddled by the Kaieteur News regarding the lands issued to private developers, and had highlighted the deliberate misrepresentation of the transactions.
“The same company that was written about in the Kaieteur News in a spectacular fashion has a contract like every other company, with obligations,” Jagdeo stated.
Jagdeo had this to say: “It is our contention that if people have contracts with the State, governments change, but the obligation remains the same; the obligations to the State, if you have (a) contract with the State, would not change.”
He also questioned the motives of the Government in speaking to the details of the lands contracts while wanting to protect the contract it inked for oil production.
“I am aware there are several developers who are in breach of their contracts with the Government,” Jagdeo said.
The Opposition Leader was firm in his conviction that it is the responsibility of the government of the day to enforce the law in regard to any breach of contract with the Government of Guyana, and he said the current ruling Administration would have the full support of the Opposition should it pursue such a course of action.
“If they (private developers) did not do what they promise to do, then there must be a penalty…you hold the reins of Government now; you have to do that (initiate action),” Jagdeo declared.
He reiterated that should any developer be found in breach of a contract which was secured through a public process, “then they must be held accountable. This is our position on these matters.”
The Opposition Leader said it is simple: if laws were broken or contractual arrangements breached through profiteering or other such violations, then it is the government of the day that must act. “We will support the enforcement action of the State,” the former president assured.
Speaking to the transparent nature of the contracts inked under the PPP/C, Jagdeo suggested: “If it was an underhand deal, none of these people would have had the contracts with obligations…If it was underhand, they would have had just an outright sale of the land to them at a low price, and that’s the end of it; but there is a contract that they have.”
Jagdeo said he was merely looking to defend the public nature of the process. He insisted that the current coalition Administration would do well to take action, rather than making excuses in order to protect the state. “But they are so incompetent they can’t even do that; they complain and run over to the Kaieteur News and say, ‘Look, the PPP left a bad deal here’,” he stated.