Bring the evidence!
That’s what Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler is telling the principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Sir Hilary Beckles, who is standing his ground that in 2005/2006, the Government agreed to guarantee $30 million-plus loan from the then Barbados National Bank to build three student dormitories, and later withdrew it.
Last week, Sir Hilary complained that the Government agreed to guarantee the money, then pulled out of the project, which was expected to bring in between $10 million and $15 million in foreign exchange to the economy by way of rents from international students.
The next day, Sinckler came out swinging, saying the principal was incorrect. In fact, the minister explained, the only thing the ministry had given to the UWI for that project was a letter of comfort. The claims and counterclaims have continued, with Sir Hilary sticking to his guns that the Government did agree to the guarantee.
The UWI head recalled that the new accommodation complex was conceived and planned as part of the internationalization programme of the campus, which started in 2006.
“The Government in 2005/2006, was asked by the university to grant two non- repaying loan guarantees in this regard. The Government agreed,” he insisted. Sir Hilary said the second phase of the programme related to a loan guarantee for the international student accommodation where the Government would not have to repay any loan.
He said the university was to raise a bond, guaranteed by the Government, and that it was on the basis of the promise of this second guarantee, that the project started.
But Minister Sinckler countered: “As far as I have read on the files of the Ministry of Finance as it related to this issue, and following a check with then Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Senator Darcy Boyce, who was the person dealing directly with this matter, I have not seen any correspondence or minute, that would confirm that this Government issued any commitment to the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, to provide a sovereign guarantee for this project”
“If the university has written information to the contrary, supported by correspondence from the Ministry of Finance, we would be more than happy to receive it,” he added.
He suggested that if such an agreement took place before his Government came into power in 2008, “again, there is no written evidence of this on the file and as such, we can only report what we see”.
To see Sir Hilary’s full statement on the matter, go to: http://www.barbadostoday.bb/2013/11/19/uwi-principals-say-on-disputed-government-guarantee/