Just Decision, Complex Execution

An article about so-called “subsidies” — recently approved to help families who have housing problems, lack financial resources and are willing to rebuild or make repairs themselves — raises some questions. The article deals only with Pinar del Río, one of the provinces most affected in recent years by hurricanes that have passed through the nation’s frontiers.

It is reported that 12 million pesos have been budgeted, from which 357 families have benefitted so far, 133 repair or constructions projects have begun, and 231 people have acquired building materials at the point of sale. Of 952 subsidy applications, 357 have been approved (as previously mentioned) and 328 are being processed. This suggests that the remaining 252 have been denied, or are not being processed. So far, everything seems clear.

The first question arises over the report that more than 22,000 homes have been affected by hurricanes over the last decade. Assuming that 952 applications are approved (something very difficult to accomplish), that would leave 21,048 affected homes without coverage. In black and white terms this would mean that, if 952 cases were resolved this year, it would take an additional 21 years to resolve the rest. This assumes that there is no additional damage from future hurricanes.

Since this is an “orderly process” (which to me means lengthy and slow) and there is “rigorous control from the point of sale to completion,” according to the official interviewed, this suggests that the subsidy recipient must not only do the actual work, he must also accept the fact that bureaucrats from the various organizations involved in the process will control his every move. As if this were not enough, it is reported that “money from the subsidy may not be used to cover the costs of transporting building materials.” This raises another question. Is he supposed to carry the cement, concrete, iron rebar, etc. on his back and those of his friends and family?

When those who draft regulations know absolutely nothing about what they are regulating, these sorts of inconsistencies occur. Wouldn’t it be easier, after analyzing and approving each application, to hand the subsidy over to the beneficiary and let him — the person most concerned with solving his housing problem — use it as he sees fit without pointless interference? Would it cost so much to stop wanting to control everything?

Someone might point out that this is not the only way to solve the housing problem, that there are also bank loans. That is true, but just try to apply for one and you will see the vía crucis that awaits you, assuming you can even get it. I think the decision to grant subsidies is a just one, but if the bureaucratic impediments that currently accompany them are not removed, it is a program that will fail without accomplishing its objectives.

Photo: Peter Deel

August 27 2012

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