Wednesday, Jan 22, 2020
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FNM to float mortgage relief proposal

Shadow Minister of State for Finance Peter Turnquest revealed that the Free National Movement (FNM) has its own mortgage relief plan that could be released for public scrutiny as early as next month. Although he would not reveal any details of the plan, he said, “The fundamental basis of the FNM plan is grow the economy and create an opportunity for Bahamians to meet their obligations.” He insisted that it is not something that members of the opposition want to rush.

The Christie administration’s rebooted mortgage proposal is now but one of three such proposals floated by the political directorate. In addition to the PLP program, the United Democratic Party (UDP) – fronted by Marco City MP Greg Moss, who reportedly wrote much of the PLP’s mortgage relief platform – has put forward its own proposal, as has the Democratic National Alliance (DNA). Only the Free National Movement has yet to release specific details on what its mortgage relief program would be.

Turnquest told Guardian Business yesterday that the FNM’s plan would be more along the lines of incentivizing banks to work with consumers. “What we are not going to do is try to do what the government is doing again, which is to give

people false hope… It doesn’t work that way,” he said.

He insisted that any mortgage relief plan couldn’t work unless unemployment is reduced in The Bahamas. Currently, the unemployment rate stands at 14.8 percent.

“For any mortgage relief plan to work, you must have a job. Most of the people who are losing their homes are losing it for one of two reasons: They don’t have income or they are underemployed. No matter what kind of program you come up with, unless you can fix that problem then it will fail,” said Turnquest.

Under the Christie administration’s proposed mortgage relief program 2.0, 1,000 or more homeowners who were 90 days or more past due as of May 2016 could receive aid from the government. But Turnquest questioned where the government would get the money to pay off these mortgages and added that there is no such thing as a “free lunch”.

He went on to say that the government’s mortgage relief plan would involve working with banks as partners. “We are looking more to providing incentives to banks,” he said.

“We are going to be focused on trying to grow the economy and create jobs and work with these financial institutions to enhance their mortgage recovery efforts,” Turnquest said.

“What I want to do is empower these financial institutions to make choices and provide options that are affordable to the borrower,” Turnquest added.

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