Hinkson: Blame Govt for Bajans missing UWI
Opposition Shadow Minister of Education Edmund Hinkson is blaming poor planning by the Freundel Stuart administration for a fall in the number of Barbadians able to attend university this semester.
The Member of Parliament for St James North said today that not only had Government been wrong in halting payments of university tuition fees for Barbadians two years ago, but it was now unable to secure funding to grant student loans because of its poor preparation.
“The people of Barbados are victims of poor planning on the part of the Government of Barbados in terms of the funding of tertiary education,” Hinkson told Barbados TODAY this evening in reference to the Student Revolving Loan Fund’s (SRLF) inability to draw down on a US$7.5 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank for on-lending to students and their parents.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced during 2013 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals that Government would stop paying tuition fees for Barbadian students pursuing studies at the University of the West Indies, but would continue to cover economic costs.
The move, Sinckler said at the time, would save the Treasury an estimated $42 million a year.
Hinkson said the financial difficulties facing the SRLF, along with the decision to stop covering tuition fees, had been a setback for average Barbadians.
“Every Barbadian must be able to develop themselves to the fullest capacity and the Government of Barbados owes its people the opportunity. This is what gives a competitive edge over other countries,” he contended.
Although Minister of Education Ronald Jones insisted the SRLF was not broke, students who had applied for loans were turned down because of a lack of funds.
Sinckler said last week that the Fund was experiencing, “challenges while it awaits an injection of funds through a facility from the Caribbean Development Bank” and he proposed to provide $5 million from the National Insurance Scheme as a temporary measure to make money available for the students.
The Minister of Finance said at the time that Government would get the money by issuing special Treasury Bills, but Hinkson said it was too little, too late.
“It seems to me that now would be too late for some people. The semester begins next week at the University of the West Indies, and a next couple weeks at the Hugh Wooding Law School [in Trinidad],”he said.
“Some parents have told me that their children would not be able to attend the University of the West Indies this year. They were depending on acquisition of a loan from the Student Revolving Loan Fund, and it is now too late for them to apply for other finances to try and fund the tuition fees that the Government has imposed on Barbadians two years ago,” Hinkson charged.