The Government could owe the University of the West Indies as much as $100 million in arrears for this financial year alone, says Opposition Shadow Minister of Finance, Mia Mottley.
Mottley, addressing the debates in Parliament on the guarantee by Government of the repayment of a loan of $41 million to the University of the West Indies by the National Insurance Board, said she believed in addition to this sum, there was an outstanding $50 million to $60 million for this year that was not being admitted by Government.
She claimed: “The loan … will not in any way come close to extinguishing the arrears of the debt owed to UWI and I regret that the honourable minister of education has spoken already because he ought to be the one … telling us of the peculiar state of affairs that the Government of Barbados has now found itself in, in terms of the university’s history.
“I can think of no other comparable period where Barbados’ arrears have been allowed to mount as they have since the University of the West Indies have received contributions from the Government of Barbados,” said Mottley.
Government did not just give the university money, it was not a gift, said the St. Michael North East MP, but a fee for services provided by the university.
She went on to explain that the structure of the money provided the university was allocated between economic costs and tuition fees.
“[T]he structure of the money to the university is allocated between economic costs, which is the cost that we assume for the benefit of having a campus here, as well as the other attendant cost for having the centre of the university. Apart from the three campuses, the fourth unit of the university is the central administration which happens to be located at Mona, but which really services all of the three campuses plus the non-campus territories that have now become a block within the university itself.
“Similarly, apart from the economic costs, we also pay tuition costs and tuition costs became a category that really only came into existence in the last 20 year. Prior to that we paid the university one sum of money.”
With the best intentions, said Mottley, Government could not provide for thousands of students without the cash flow that would come from economic costs and tuition, given that 75 per cent of the students at Cave Hill were Barbadian.
“So what we have is a false situation in so far as the Government speaking to a deficit of 4.5 per cent in this year, but yet we are not bringing to book as much as $60 million to $70 million in relation to this current year and I am not talking about the additional arrears from 2011/2012. I am talking about this current year 2012-2013 and that is almost the equivalent of one per cent of GDP.
“We have to make decisions because you cannot afford not to bring to book one institution that accounts for as much as one per cent of GDP in terms of what you are not bringing to book. That is the bottom line … and this $41 million is not the total sum of the monies owed by the Government of Barbados to the University of the West Indies for the arrears before we get to 2012-2013 and either the minister of finance or the minister of education can let the people know how much more beyond the $41 million is owed before we get into 2012-2013 in terms of the commitments, because I venture to suggest that it may well be in the vicinity of another $50 million to $60 million or so that is owed and if we go from the university’s numbers we know that it is about $50 million or $60 million short for this financial year.” (LB)