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22.01.2006 General News

Gov’t allays fears of workers on housing scheme

By Statesman
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Cecilia Dapaah assures low income earner

In an apparent response to concerns expressed by some workers in the Civil Service and other labour organisations that the low income housing scheme will benefit high income groups in the country, Government has assured that the programme is intended to enable low income earners own property. Deputy Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, told The Statesman in an interview that the scheme is targeted at the middle and low income earners.

'The scheme is not for the rich and high income earners; they can privately go and acquire their own and leave this for those in the low income group,' Mrs Dapaah stressed.

The Bantama MP allayed the fears of workers by insisting that the houses will be owner occupier, reiterating sector Minister Hackman Owusu Agyemang's assurance that a mechanism would be put in place to ensure that no “middle men” are entertained.

She said the scheme is a fulfillment of President Kufuor's promise of a property owning democracy, where ordinary workers are encouraged to own part of the country's wealth.

Madam Abena Dapaah was upbeat that the nationwide scheme will help resolve the acute housing problems currently facing some working groups in the country. She explained that the sale and rental of the houses will be done through the various banks in the country to ensure repayment.

According to the deputy Minister, the leadership of the various labour organizations including the including the Trade's Union Congress, The Civil Servants Association of Ghana, Ghana Registered Nurses Association and Ghana National Association of Teachers will be involved in the distribution of the houses.

The housing estate, which would be replicated in other regions, is an integrated project designed to incorporate schools, churches, police stations, shopping centres and other social amenities.

The Statesman has been sampling views and concerns of some Civil Servants on the government's affordable housing scheme.

While some where worried that they may not benefit from the scheme because their income could not support the acquisition of those houses, others were of the view that it could be purchased by the rich and later sublet. There are yet others, though a minute proportion who believes the scheme is “too ambitious” and will take many years to complete.

But the best assurance from the deputy Minister was “it shall be done, and we will make sure it is done”.

Madam Abena Dapaah said President Kufuor is determined to see the successful execution of the programme and so as sector Ministry, they would ensure that the 'mission is accomplished'.

But the Executive Secretary of the civil servants Association of Ghana Smart Chigabatia was just optimistic about the programme, but lauded government. “It is our responsibility to support the programme to make it work because we are the ultimate beneficiaries,” Mr Chigabatia said.

He added that “the thing about this country is that people start criticizing and looking at the negative side everything instead of looking at it workability,” the executive secretary said.

However Mr Chigabatia's major concern is that the current salary levels may not be able to pay for the house in a longer time to come.

He said currently supervisory and operational level one to nine are on a ¢6 million salary while senior supervisors and managers up to level thirteen earn ¢27 million annual salary.

He said unless government consolidates all allowances into their salaries and allows for the renegotiation of the period for payment, most workers will be left out.

The executive secretary said their relationship with the banks will require government's intervention because no bank will give loans to cover the long repayment period.

To address some these concerns the deputy Minister said Government is leading discussion with Barclays Bank to set up a low interest rate mortgage loan facility for buyers. The idea she says is to turn the income from sales and rent back into building more rooms. Government has in the 2005 Budget Statement committed an amount of ¢150 billion as initial seed capital for the construction of affordable houses. So far ¢17 billion has been released by the Finance Ministry for the commencement of work on the project.