Arthur says Barbados has tertiary education deficit
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur believes Barbados’ future development can be retarded if a satisfactory answer isn’t found to the challenge of providing and funding tertiary education.
And he has described as “madness”, Government giving millions of dollars to the Four Seasons project when the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus was in dire need of financial support.
Delivering the inaugural Independence Lecture of the School of Politics entitled Barbados At 47, Our Strategic Options on Sunday evening at the Cricket Legends of Barbados, Arthur said the country had entered a phase of development where its competitive position would be increasingly dependent on its capacity to differentiate the Barbados Brand.
“Our chief point of differentiation historically has been the quality and diversity of our human resources as compared to that of our immediate competitors. We will lose that competitive advantage if we curtail our investment in tertiary education while others are expanding theirs. Related to this is the fact that Barbados still has a tertiary education output deficit,” he said.
Arthur, who served as Prime Minister between 1994 and 2008, noted that large number of Barbadians who wanted to pursue further studies at the tertiary level couldn’t do so because of a lack of facilities and this “human resource deficit” was, in his view, the nation’s most significant deficit.
“It is of greater strategic significance than the fiscal or balance of payments deficits. For it amounts to a waste of our most valuable resource. The other dimension is purely financial and economic. In many other countries of the world, university townships are major generators of foreign exchange, income and employment. And so it can be for Barbados,” he said.
“Cave Hill might already be the single largest generator of foreign exchange of any single enterprise in Barbados. The plans to expand the campus and double the foreign students intake over the next four four years means that [it] can come to make a gigantic contribution to the growth of this economy purely from a foreign exchange earning point of view. Barbados’ future as an important international financial centre will require that Bridgetown should become a financial city in the fullest sense of the word.”
He further suggested that the campus’ plans to develop in The City an institute for finance and banking, risk management and the like, will therefore confer on it a pivotal role in the future transformation of the economy.
“Barbados also needs a science park to link the transformation of our economy to the forces of innovation taking place globally. Again there is a pivotal role for Cave Hill Campus. The development of the Cave Hill/Warrens corridor as an integrated township linking financial services, commerce, education tourism, and a zone of innovation, constitutes one of the keys for the future transformation of our society. It is of such vast potential that if we have to create a Higher Education Levy to assure the future of tertiary education in Barbados, I would be the first to support it.
“That said, it has to be the perfect metaphor for the present madness taking place in the country that the Minister of Finance has already pumped $120 million into the Four Seasons project and is looking for more to pump, while on the other side of the road he is leaving the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill bereft of the funds that the Government of Barbados has an obligation to provide to pay for services already rendered on its behalf. Both institutions are in the minister’s constituency,” Arthur noted.