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Sinckler: Let’s talk UWI fee

mialisafenty, [email protected]

Sinckler: Let’s talk UWI fee

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Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler has called for a national conversation on what should be a fixed portion of the Barbados economy it can afford to spend for university education over the next five years.
He made the suggestion on Tuesday as the House of Assembly debated a supplementary resolution for $96.2 million, most of which was for the Ministry of Education to meet the economic costs for Barbadian students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) for a full academic year and tuition fees for the first semester of the academic year 2013-2014.
Sinckler noted the fact that a significant portion of the public budget goes to education has been a long-standing bipartisan commitment and felt it should continue if a successful society is to be built.
He denied reports that Government’s debt to the UWI was in the vicinity of $200 million, saying it was closer to $150 million, which was being addressed.
“The issue is how did we find ourselves in a position to be in this type of condition and what can we do to extricate ourselves as quickly as possible from it,” Sinckler told the Lower Chamber.
“We have to engage in a national discourse – forget the party lines altogether – as to what we can and cannot afford as a country. What types of resources we are going to spend. In other words, when we are talking about university education, it cannot be a moving target. It cannot be this year it is $100 million; next year it is $150 million, and the year after that it is $110 million and then after that it is $180 million and then it is $80 million or $90 million.
“We have to be able to determine what, over a five-year period – and I know that the Ministry of Education is working on this with the Ministry of Finance – it is that we can afford going forward based on our own knowledge now and our projections of where Barbados’ economy will be in terms of its growth and development, or indeed if, unfortunately that happens, lack of growth.”
The minister said recent experience with the evolution of the original “one graduate in every household” policy has taught that it was not appropriately undertaken.
He noted that from 2009 there was difficulty in meeting the costs.
“So, when people speak about what was happening with the university, it must be told that up to the 2008-2009 financial year the Government was actually ahead in its allocation to the University of the West Indies,” he added.
“But when that challenge, particularly in the 2011 financial year where we actually lost close to $300 million in revenue, is when this problem started to emerge. And because it is not so easy to turn on an expansion and to turn it off – because when the society wraps itself around the [reality] of an expansion of an institution like a university, you don’t just turn it off by telling people who are going there: ‘Oh, don’t go there anymore’.
“Or even the people who are waiting in anticipation of getting in, that you can’t go because the question then becomes sociologically: what do you do with all these people? So you have to try to maintain it. So, in the context of that, we started to see the arrears climbing up,” Sinckler said.