If given the opportunity, the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) could find money in the proposed budget to pay tuition fees for Barbadians at the University of the West Indies (UWI) this year.
Opposition Leader Mia Mottley made that declaration in her contribution to the 2015/2016 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure today.
Mottley, a Minister of Education in a past BLP administration, cited a number of areas of Government spending that could have supported education instead.
Noting that Government’s annual tuition expenditure figures between 2009 and 2012 moved from $30.4 million to $37.3 million and then jumped to $42.5 million in 2013, Mottley said tuition fees were, on average, about $30 million to $35 million a year.
“The Barbados Labour Party can find $35 million for the children of this country to continue to receive free tertiary education,” she insisted.
Seeking to rebut contentions from the Government benches that continued spending on UWI tuition fees would be reckless, Mottley said that 80 per cent of students attending the UWI come from “poor backgrounds or working poor”.
“Is it fiscally reckless to support $35 million for 8,000 Barbadians a year, or is it fiscally reckless to pay $24 million at Valerie [Brittons Hill] at $550 a square foot for low-income houses that should be built at a quarter or a third of that cost . . . is it fiscally reckless to build out Grotto for $30 million at $700 a square foot . . .
“Is it fiscally reckless for this Government to sign an implementation agreement one year ago with a company to build a plasma gasification plant with an investment of US$300 million that the Government of Barbados must seek to pay back in excess of $20 or $30 million a year for the purchase of electricity – the same amount that we would be spending to pay for tuition fees in this country – and . . . a $500 million factory for sugar industry?” Mottley questioned.