Barbados is losing millions of dollars in foreign exchange, due to Government’s pulling out from guaranteeing a $30-million loan for construction of three residential blocks at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies.
Principal and pro-vice chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles said at the official opening and naming of the Keith Hunte Hall Of Residence this morning that the three-block project was estimated to bring in between US$10 million and US$15 million per year to this economy.
Sir Hilary noted that two of the three structures were to be built on the old campus site, with the other one –– the Keith Hunte Hall –– where it now exists in a new location. The principal explained that the only reason the $11 million Keith Hunte Hall was now ready for accommodation, was because construction had already started on that building when Government pulled back its guarantee of the loan from the then Barbados National Bank.
He was of the view that the Government had reversed its backing for the loan because of its fiscal position in the midst of a recession, and even though it had no obligation to repay the money, international financial agencies viewed the guarantee as adding to the debt profile.
“We are in continuous conversation with the Government, because they have come to realize that these [three blocks] would be a major part of our tourism strategy going forward,” Sir Hilary pointed out.
However, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler told Barbados TODAY while he was unaware of the project being referred to, he would have to investigate the matter before making an informed comment.
But Sir Hilary said the full project would have resulted in 500 additional rooms. He pointed out that the Keith Hunte Hall comprised about 70 sleeping facilities, which will also double as suites used for overseas students and their visiting families. The principal stated that the original venture was for the construction of three differently designed buildings for graduate international students, which would also function as a summer hotel, as well as for anyone who wanted to stay there at any time.
“The reason why we did this [project] was we were entering into the aggressive international phase of the Cave Hill Campus. We imagined that ten per cent of students here by 2020, would be from around the world. We are already the most Caribbean campus in the Caribbean. Close to 30 per cent of students here are from the Caribbean.”
The prominent scholar suggested that the plan was to double those numbers by attracting international students.
“We believe that this is going to get back on stream. It has to, because the universities in North America, especially Britain, who we have contracted with and they want to bring their students here, we have signed over a hundred MOUs with first class American universities. They want to send their students here,” asserted Sir Hilary.
The Cave Hill Campus principal disclosed that just yesterday he had been holding discussions with the New York State University, which wants to send 100 graduates here every year. However, Sir Hilary noted that he had to turn down the offer for the full number of students, telling the administration in New York the Cave Hill Campus could only accommodate half at the moment due to a lack of facilities.