During her Budget reply in the House of Assembly, Mottley said an “inescapable part of Barbados’ success” was its ability to maximise education. She said free education had promoted upward mobility and social stability and led to Barbadians not having to depend on the welfare of the state for their survival. She suggested that it should not be beyond Government to invest $500 million over 10 years in the sector.
Mottley said the Caribbean region already had a deficit in tertiary education enrollment and rather than instituting policies that encouraged a continued reduction in enrollment, there should be a concentration on expanding university education.
She noted that back in the late 1990s both Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica had agreed to the introduction of tuition fees at St. Augustine and the Mona Campus respectively. She added that the Trinidad and Tobago government subsequently reversed that decision after realising a decline in enrollment of students from working class families. She noted that St. Augustine now had the highest enrollment in the Caribbean.
The St. Michael North East MP told the Lower House that education had done more for Barbados than what bauxite had done for Jamaica; what oil and gas had done for Trinidad and Tobago; and what gold and diamonds had done for Guyana. Mottley added Government’s decision was the worst act in the island since the introduction of adult suffrage.
Mottley said Barbados’ high ranking on the United Nation’s Human Development Index had much to do with the investment which had been made in its people through education.
She urged members on the Government side that when the vote was called tomorrow that they should vote against the introduction of the tuition fees which was revealed last night by Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler during his presentation of the Budget.
Mottley queried how Government expected to make meaningful attempts to “grow” the international business sector to the next level and other areas of value added in the economy related to manufacturing, the rum industry and sea island cotton, while disadvantaging the potential students needed to drive such sectors forward.
Mottley admitted that there might be inefficiencies at the University of the West Indies which had to be addressed. But she stressed that any inefficiencies at the Cave Hill Campus did not justify “pulling the rug” from under working class people seeking to access tertiary education. She advised that if Government did not reverse its decision, it could lead to a brain drain in Barbados.
Looking at the revenue-earning capabilities of the UWI, Mottley said there were some who acted as though tourists only came to Barbados from North America, and she suggested the campus presented a significant foreign exchange earner. Mottley explained that about 2 000 overseas students spent about nine months annually in Barbados.
“And they pay rent … Vincentians must pay rent to live here too,” she said.
Mottley recalled that when the Owen Arthur administration sought to introduce amenities fees at the UWI, the then Democratic Labour Party Opposition had been among the most vocal critics of the policy. She noted those fees amounted to about $500 but now the same DLP as the government was introducing a structure where the minimum tuition fee was $5,800. (WG)