Remarks by

Rt. Hon. Hubert A. Ingraham

Prime Minister
25th Anniversary Banquet
The Bahamas Mortgage Corporation
Sheraton Cable Beach Resort
Saturday 1 November, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am happy to join you as you mark and celebrate this special jubilee anniversary. For 25 years the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) has provided affordable mortgage financing to Bahamians.

A home is likely to be the largest purchase most people make in a lifetime. And, a home is also likely to be the most important investment most people make. Homeownership is one of the best sources of financial security and independence for most people.

Buying land and building a home upon it has been the goal of virtually every Bahamian from time immemorial.

Early on it was an achievement made by many only after long years of many stops and starts.

First the land had to be paid for, then the foundation had to be dug and laid. Eventually, the frame would be built – up to the “belt course”, then so on and so forth.

Sometimes, grown children left home before their parents finally achieved their dream of owning a home.

The Bahamas Mortgage Corporation was created to assist even more Bahamians to:

    construct a new home
    purchase a new or existing single or multi-family structure
    rehabilitate or enlarge an existing home, or
    purchase vacant land on which to build

The creation of the BMC, 16 months following upon the creation of the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance, remains for me the highlight of my earliest achievements in public service.

BMC, you have done well! I am pleased that private sector confidence in you has been restored and nowadays, we are able to have a $15 million housing bond issue over-subscribed by the private sector!

I am pleased that Anton Saunders accepted my invitation – nay, appointment without prior notice – to serve as Chairman of your Board.

He will ensure that systems are restored; he will banish political favourtism and, he will return BMC to that which it was intended to be – a place where each and every Bahamian applicant can and will be treated fairly in accordance with established written rules and policies.

And, he will ensure that the premise and foundation of BMC is not only evident in the things it does but is also seen to be so.

Toward these ends, I am pleased to advise that amendments to Government’s housing policies and to your governing legislation in the coming months will reduce some of the bureaucracy that now slows your ability to respond speedily to your clients needs. As well, we will, through legislation, permit you to be more responsive to the needs of good customers by accommodating loans (for specific purposes) against equity in their mortgaged homes.

In this regard, you will be pleased to know that we are revisiting the role of the Housing Commission in the evaluation of would be borrowers.

I was recently alarmed to learn from a former borrower from BMC that she had recently lost her home after 19 years of ownership. She informed that she had transferred her home mortgage from the BMC to a commercial bank where she was permitted to borrow (to cover legitimate debts related to home repairs and the education of her children) against the equity she held in her home.

Of course, that loan cost money for its transfer and another set of legal fees and government taxes, and it was at a higher interest rate. With the down-turn of the economy and reduction of her household income she was unable to keep up with her higher monthly payments. Now, after all these years, she is once again without a home.

Therefore, to the extent possible, we want to assist BMC mortgage holders from finding themselves compelled to seek new mortgages for their homes, at higher interest rates, should they have to refinance their home mortgages.

Also, amendments to the law will increase the level of Government Guaranteed loans to $250,000 – more than double the current level; and we will permit the value of the land to be included in the value of a Government Guaranteed Loan.

We also hope that a higher percentage of your loans will be made to persons outside of Government subdivisions.

Finally, we will re-examine the current criteria for Government insured loans and reduce the fee payable in respect of same.

On the occasion of your 25th anniversary, I thank your Minister, all of your former Ministers, Chairmen, Board Members and Managing Directors who have served in BMC over the years and all who assisted in making you a success.

Most especially, I thank Sir William Allen, your first Chairman, Mrs. Ruth Millar, your founding Managing Director, and your current Managing Director, Mr. Jerome Godfrey, a original employee and now once again, your Managing Director.

Finally, I acknowledge that the $18 plus million building you were expecting will not be your. Instead, you will be granted land upon which will be constructed a suitable, adequate and appropriate complex for your operation.

Thank you. Congratulations and Godspeed as you begin the next 25 years!