$28 million owed

Education Minister warns SRLF defaulters to settle or else

Pay up or be named and shamed publicly. Minister of Education Ronald Jones issued the strong warning this morning to defaulters of the Student Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF), among them doctors, nurses and lawyers, who owe a whopping $28 million.

Speaking at a Press conference this morning, Jones put defaulters on notice that he intended to direct the SRLF management to take action if they did not begin coming in to settle their debt.

“You were facilitated; pay it back! Otherwise, I’m going to instruct or direct the chairman of the Student Revolving Loan Fund to put everyone of those names out in the papers because when people are nice to you and genuine, then you can’t be stabbing them in their backs by withholding the moneys,” the minister said.

“A word of warning to the wise must be enough. Pay back the money that you borrow. It’s unfair to guarantors, who might have reached [retirement] who’re living off their pension and for you to expect that they should pay because you’re not paying.”

Administrative manager Roslyn Shepherd said the fund had offered amnesty and worked out payment plans with defaulters, rather than opting to go the route of the court, which took longer.

The fund collected $95 million between 2004 and up to this period, with sureties paying less than one per cent of that amount. Shepherd also reported a 100 per cent increase in the number of people applying for loans since recent changes were instituted to facilitate students studying at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill.

To help cope with the financing demand from the fund, Government has begun talks with the Caribbean Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to
secure enough financing to cover a six-year period.

In the meantime, the Minister of Education said Government was changing the legislation governing the fund to facilitate people who were unable to meet the requirement for guarantors.

Asked if this measure would not compound the problems for the SRLF, Jones responded:  “We have been speaking with other countries . . . as to how to get the moneys back. We can’t go into the details, but there are some countries that can track you 6,000 miles away from your homeland; and inter-governmental cooperation, inter-agency cooperation, inter-employer cooperation, Barbados Revenue Authority to track you down, so that the funds are repaid.”


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