A big pay day for the cash-strapped University of the West Indies is just around the corner.
UWI will receive $90 million – $45 million next month and the same amount in July – as Government moves to clear four years of arrears worth almost $200 million to the regional educational institution.
With most of the money going to the Cave Hill Campus, the Freundel Stuart Administration, via an arrangement being led by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, will pay another $90 million under the same terms towards its indebtedness to UWI next year.
This meant that by the end of July next year Government would have cleared $180 million of its debts to UWI.
Details of the exact figures were made public for the first time last Friday night, as the House of Assembly debated and approved $39.2 million for the UWI – $34.9 million in economic costs and $4.3 million in tuition costs – for the end of the university’s current financial year in July.
Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, who gave detailed information on the state of Government’s finances in relation to UWI, was speaking partly in the context of concerns from Leader of the Opposition Mia Mottley that whatever funds government paid UWI in the coming weeks could be negated by the fact that the Cave Hill Campus owed suppliers $21 million for a range of supplies, including paper.
Jones, who made it clear the $39 million being paid to UWI now had nothing to do with the indebtedness, said Barbadians receiving state-funded education at the UWI’s three main campus here in Trinidad, Jamaica, the Open Campus and other university entities was not under threat.
“Members would remember that in the Estimates of 2012-2013 some $71.3 … million was voted for the economic costs and as usual supplementaries are required to provide for the University of the West Indies, the entire system, UWI Cave Hill, St. Augustine and Mona,” the minister said in a debate that immediately succeeded discussion on the 2013-2014 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
“We are therefore asking the House to approve these funds to satisfy the requirements for … the financial year of the university (Cave Hill Campus) up to end of … July. You should note that funds were also due to St. Augustine and Mona and those funds have in fact been paid to cover Barbadian students in those two locations.
“You would note further that there is a continuing exercise on behalf of the Government to reduce its indebtedness to the University of the West Indies and we will continue … to work with the University of the West Indies to bring that indebtedness down, but we are trying to keep as current as possible so that there is no further build up of arrears at the University of the West Indies for Barbadian students,” he added.
Mottley, who is a former Minister of Education, was concerned especially about the likely negative impact the indebtedness had on the operations of the Cave Hill campus, the greatest beneficiary of state funds because it had the largest number of Barbadian students.
“Cave Hill on average takes about 80 per cent of the monies through economic costs that we pay. My understanding is that Cave Hill has about $21 million in invoices that it hasn’t been able to pay. So when they receive 80 per cent of this, which should only be about $25 million or so, it’s not going to leave them with much elbow room to be able to get on with the business of running the university,” she feared.
“In other words, $21 million will go straight out to pay previous suppliers, because their suppliers have told them that they will only supply if cash is paid. Can the minister therefore tell us whether the debt arrangement is such that they will receive it in April so that they do not end up in a situation again where their suppliers cannot supply product, goods, paper, etcetera?
“…Where is the funding coming from for the $90 million that will move towards clearing 50 per cent of the arrears since it is not in the Estimates and … since we have given the commitment to keep current and the 2013-2014 Estimates only provide for the sum of $71.3 million for economic costs? Is the government intending to move in the difference or is it intending to change the terms and conditions of access for Barbadian students at the UWI?” she asked.
Jones, who said he could not hide the fact “it has been a difficult three (to) four years for the state, based on declining revenues or stagnant revenues etcetera”, said Government was committed, but had faced difficulties similar to the Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago governments, which were yet to commit on how much money they would give UWI this year.
“Barbados will most definitely state its commitment and I can assure the House, and I can assure the people of Barbados that that commitment will be given in the context of our resources, but it will not be denying Barbadian students the opportunity to continue their education across the university system,” he stated.
“Relative to the payment, the Minister of Finance is better able to address that. All I can assure you is that we have had discussions and the payment of funds to the university was decided at the highest level of the government of Barbados and the University of the West Indies.
“We will even, where possible, seek to accelerate the payment to the University of the West Indies of the debt, which will give them some cash flow, help move the system along, help finish off the structures because we know, we had committed some $20 million to the new library, and they would have used some of those funds, so the funds being given will help even move that process along.
“The commitment remains there, we will continue to exercise good judgment to ensure that Barbadian students continue to be educated at the university, so we are not changing the access to Barbadian students at the University of the West Indies,” he added. (SC)
UWI Cave Hill Student Enrollment
2007/2008 – 7,311
2008/2009 – 7,781
2009/2010 – 8,342
2010/2011 – 8,674
2011/2012 – 8,841
2012/2013 – 8,763
Government payment of economic costs and tuition fees to UWI
2008/2009 – $134 million
2009/2010 – $138 million
2010/2011 – $127 million
2011/2012 – $110 million
2012/2013 – $127 million
Allocation of Government’s average annual economic costs payment to UWI
Cave Hill Campus, Barbados – $106 million
St. Augustine Campus, Trinidad – $2.5 million
Mona Campus, Jamaica – $2.8 million
The Open Campus – $2.1 million
University Hospital – $1.8 million
UWI Centre – $11.5 million
Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology – $250, 000