Anger vs reality over govt’s big debt to the UWI
ON THE eve of today’s presentation of the 2013 Budget, there were within 48 hours, separate hard-hitting comment from two well-known academics over Government’s failure to honour its debt obligations to the University of the West Indies (UWI).
What’s quite interesting is that the criticisms came from the Principal of the UWI Cave Hill campus, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Dr George Belle, retired former Dean of the Social Sciences Faculty.
Neither has been previously known to be hostile to, as distinct from occasional critical assessments of policies or functioning of, the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) under the administrations headed by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart. Any rush to judgment, therefore, should focus on the specific issue of shared concerns, namely Barbados’ climbing indebtedness to the UWI.
Although Belle’s strident, critical intervention on Government’s fiscal policy, as reported in our last Sunday Sun, may perhaps have been quite surprising for some, the comparative temperate position articulated Sir Hilary earlier in the Saturday Sun also revealed the depth of shared disappointment with this Administration’s failure to deal seriously with that debt.
The UWI, which serves the needs of three campuses – Mona, St Augustine and Cave Hill – has emerged over the years for what it is: a most indispensable educational institution in the service of this region.
This, incidentally, was long before citizens of Barbados and the rest of the English-speaking region came to appreciate the importance and value of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for regional economic integration and, relatedly, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) as the premier financing institution for regional economic and social development.
Of course, the pertinent issue at this time is how come Barbados which, for many post-independence years, had relished the reputation of being commended by regional and international financial institutions for commendable fiscal management, is now in default of debt payments to the UWI to the enormous extent of $146 million, or 90 per cent – “the biggest debt ever by any one government”, according to Belle?
While Sir Hilary was noting with deep disappointment that Barbados owed the three UWI campuses BDS$200 million and strongly warned of the implications for the future of this vital regional institution, Belle was passionate in his denunciation of Government’s fiscal policies and general performance.
Belle is upset enough to throw his support behind the Barbados Workers’ Union’s own disenchantment with the Stuart Administration which, he feels, “should not last four years”. The noted political scientist’s anger must also contend with the reality that the DLP’s second five-year term was achieved democratically at a free and fair general elections.