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Statement by NASSIT's Head of Investment at Commissioning of West Region Office of Sierra Leone
By NASSIT : Head, Investment and Project Commissioning
Jul 26, 2007, 15:00
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Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, let me add my voice to the Regional Manager, West in welcoming all of you present to the official dedication of the Regional West Office of NASSIT. We consider and appreciate the fact that you took time off your busy schedules to come here, very much as an expression of solidarity with NASSIT.

The Director General consented to allow me use a few minutes of this occasion to briefly explain a number of things pertaining to NASSITs investments, generally in the area of real estate, but more especially in housing. We believe it is crucial to use every opportunity we have to engender and promote understanding of what we do at NASSIT for two reasons: (i) for the fundamental requirement of transparency in our activities; and (ii) to foster dialogue and cooperation with all facets of our society.

Five years after the establishment of the old age, invalidity and survivors benefit scheme administered by NASSIT, we have, in addition to understanding the theory and practice of social security administration, gained insight in the investment and management of social security funds. Our existence in our community and locality also gives us the ability to have a fair understanding and put in proper context, the critical social security needs of the people of this country. I should say that we had some of this knowledge approximately four years ago, when the Trust developed an investment strategy that underlines the need to invest some portion of the reserve funds in real estate, and more particularly, in housing. I will utilize the next couple of minutes to explain the strategic objective of our real estate and housing investments and what that implies for the people of this country who wish to have access to housing.

Ongoing Programmes

Supply Side Initiatives

The Trust has established strategic partnerships with private sector investors in real estate development to produce housing units of various levels for sale to the public. This will impact on the market by incrusting the supply of housing units in the country (Regimanuel Gray (SL) Limited, Guoji Property Development Ltd, SN Alliance Ltd)

There are ongoing investment projects in Goderich and Grafton as well as other parts of the country.

Desmond Side Initiatives

The Trust is well advanced in the establishment of a Mortgage Financial institution in the country. The HCF Savings and Loans Limited has been registered and is expected to commence business operations in 3 months.

The objective here is to provide finance to eligible members of the public to access loans to purchase houses, which could be paid back over a period of 15 to 20 years.

Purposed National Housing Scheme

Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, the story as told so far indicates that our efforts will help in some ways to solve the housing problem in this country. We however, recognize that the magnitude of the problem is by far larger that what can be achieved within the context of our present investment strategy. I will give you some facts figures to support this claim.

1. It has been estimated that more than 350,000 houses were damaged during the civil war.( UNFAO Vulnerability Analysis)

2. from a survey carried out on the sources of finance (lending ) to construct houses in Sierra Leone, less than 9 percent are from formal lending sources (banks, cooperatives, NGOs, Government Agencies ), while about 65 percent was from relatives or friends. This, Mr. Chairman, is a large number and it could have different interpretations. It will be better and more transparent to have an institutionalized arrangement for financing home purchasing or construction.

3. In order to relieve overcrowding in houses in the country, at least 388,653 units need to be constructed. IN the western area alone, the housing needs are estimated at 65,565 units to address this need.

This, Your Excellency, Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, this is a lot of houses and by extension, huge financing requirements.

The foregoing suggests that housing should not now be considered a social or economic issue, but an issue of national security. But we have good news. The Trust is presently taking the lead in the design and establishment of a National Housing Scheme. This scheme aims to develop and establish a well planned and functional housing development and delivery system, which will improve and widen the range of housing options available to lower and middle- income sections of the populations.

NASSITs Role in National Development

Before I conclude this statement, I wish to refer to a comment made by H.E the President in one of his earlier speeches regarding NASSITs role in economic development, when he noted that the cities of Johannesburg, New York,(Mine: London) were essentially developed infrastructurally, by pension funds. This statement was very instructive. We take a cue from this, add some measure of prudence and apply to the Sierra Leonean context and say today, the NASSIT funds will be prudently utilized to generate an infrastructural and industrial renaissance in Sierra Leone. This journey, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, has already begun.

Professional as Partners in Development

I will use this opportunity to appeal to a critical component of our society for their support and collaboration in our efforts for this renaissance. I am referring here to our brothers ( and sisters) who are professionals in the fields of architecture, engineering, country planning, environmental management etc. we have, in the past few years cultivated some form of a relationship with this group. We at NASSIT consider the relationship so far to have been one of courtship, where the man, NASSIT has given his best (money etc) to court the woman (the different professional institutions). Our aim has been to make them believe that we truly want a marriage that will last. Today we are formally asking for your hands in a marriage that will change the face of this country. (OF course we all realize that in marriage, even the women makes sacrifices)

Finally, Your Excellency Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, let me use this opportunity to make a point on behalf of the DG. I will do this by reaffirming our commitment at NASSIT to serve the people of this country to the fullest of our ability no matter the circumstances. As we move into another era and dispensation in the history of this nation, we do so in hope, faith and with a vision to make people less exposed to the risks of social and economic distress arising from income loss from any contingency. We believe it can be done, it will be done and we shall do it.

Thank you very much.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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