Stuart sounds out defaulters
PM warns student loans must be repaid
Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has warned that persons cannot continue to default on loans owed to the Student Revolving Loan Fund.
In a hint of action to be taken against defaulters, Stuart, referring to the debtors as “selfish” and “dishonest”, said yesterday: “I am advised that about $24 million is owed to the fund by defaulters, insensitive to the risks to which they have exposed their guarantors. This situation will not be allowed to continue. Selfishness and dishonesty are not values that we want to encourage in Barbados.”
Stuart, the Democratic Labour Party president, told members at the organization’s 59th annual conference: “The operative word in the title of the fund is . . . ‘revolving’. When students borrow from the fund, it can only revolve if they pay the fund back. Unfortunately, some borrowers have taken the view that once they have benefited from the fund, it does not matter who else does.”
Noting that this fund had been created to facilitate student loans, he added: “I want to make it clear that the Government has liberalized access to the fund on the clear understanding that people who borrow will pay back.”
He said that the DLP had been reviewing university state funding for education since 1980.
“The party has never contemplated funding university education for all students indefinitely,” he said to party faithful in the DLP’s George Street, St Michael headquarters. Another area of education financing dealt with by Stuart was the costs of the UWI Cave Hill Campus itself, though he did not speak of any action to be taken on it. He reported that according to the Central Bank of Barbados, total operating costs for Cave Hill in the 2000/2001 financial year was $55 million, but that figure had shot up to $148 million nine years later.
He added that wages and salaries had moved from 34 per cent of total operating costs in the 2007/2008 year, to 73 per cent in 2012/2013.
Stuart had made education a central part of his address to the DLP annual conference last year, and though yesterday he said he did not intend to spend too much time on the issue, took up a third of his speaking time on it. Stuart traced the reason for free education in Barbados from a time of impoverishment of a majority of Barbadians to the current state where he cited examples of opulence enjoyed by Barbadians.
He asked: “Having empowered the majority of our men and woman through education, and expanded opportunity, are we still under a duty to treat them as though they were not empowered?”
The Prime Minister advised: “That world in which the Barbadian state was able through access to concessional financing and more favourable terms of trade to provide the flittering array of social benefits to the mass of the population has passed away, never to return.”