Government should immediately abandon its “backward” move to make Barbadians attending the University of the West Indies pay tuition fees from next year.
Instead, St. George North MP Gline Clarke recommended today, all former UWI graduates should be asked to pay “a small tax” to meet the cost.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party spokesman said as a member of this group he was prepared to have the appropriate sum deducted from his salary each month and paid to UWI.
He said this was a reasonable alternative to making thousands of Barbadian parents pay their children’s tuition fees at a time when they were struggling with daily living expenses.
Clarke voiced his concern and made his suggestion this morning during debate on the 2013 Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals in the Lower House.
“I am saying the choice today of asking parents to pay for their children is unfortunate. I am saying that the Government has a choice… Why can’t you come and say ‘Look, all graduates can have a small tax, a levy’, so that every graduate of the University of the West Indies would pay that rather than asking the present students to pay. There are options which have not been explored in this thing,” he said in reference to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s policy which the minister said would save government $42 million.
“You have graduates in this House, graduates all across Barbados, graduates in the Caribbean… I am saying that the Government needs … rethink this… I am saying that the students are generally poor and therefore they cannot pay.
Clarke said student loans were not a feasible option since this financial support was usually “tied up in too much red tape” and had “very high” interest rates.
The Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Rural Development said the UWI policy shift was symptomatic of the painful policies announced by Sinckler and which would be inflicted on Barbadians in the coming weeks and months.
“I am saying that we have other options to pursue, which can be pursued with little or no pain. This Budget gives too much pain, it does not give confidence,” he stated.
“I am saying that this Government has a golden opportunity to restructure the economy in a modern way. I am saying that it has missed the opportunity by not looking at what they do.
“It is my belief that the Minister of Finance has not inspired confidence at all in this exercise… I have noticed that words coming from the front bench especially seem not to be inspiring confidence from this country.
“I am seeing it over and over again that ministers do not understand their role and therefore they get in here and speak as though they are an ordinary member. But we have to understand that words coming from a minister are very important, especially from the Minister of Finance,” he added.
Clarke also said Government was not only wrongly advising itself in some instances, but otherwise taking bad advice from the wrong people.
“If your car broke down what would you do? If your tooth hurts where would you go? If you had a leak in your water pipe at home what would you do? If you have a financial problem where would you turn to? I am not sure that this Government has turned to the right set of professionals and therefore by so doing the wrong set of reasons have been advocated and we now have some wrong results,” he stated.
“The Government has turned … to a talk show host at the CBC for advice. They have turned to a number of social scientists at the University of the West Indies, not economists, for advice. They have turned even to the member for St. Lucy…, but where are the Wendell McCleans of this nation? Where is the Frank Alleyne, where are the Clyde Mascolls of this country?
“I am saying that just as how you would turn to a financial expert for financial advice this government … has turned to this own self for advice,” he added.
The BLP representative said instead of picking a fight with UWI’s administration and students, Government should pay attention to real causes of its financial woes and the country’s economic problems.
“This Government has a very bad record in terms of the economy. The measures over the past five years have not succeeded and these measures that are inflicted today will not succeed,” he said.
“The Government does not produce growth but the Government has to inspire confidence… I am saying that this climate that we have today does not encourage persons in Barbados and outside of Barbados to invest. We have to have a climate of investor confidence, we have to have a right tax package, the political climate must be right, the economic climate must be right, and the Democratic Labour Party must come out of this mindset that Barbados is only a society and not an economy.” (SC)