Barbados gov’t dismisses UWI study as public relations stunt

BarbadosFlag-1BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Barbados government has dismissed as a public relations stunt, a study done by the Cave Hill campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) indicating that the regional institution contributes more direct foreign exchange to the local economy than sugar and rum exports.

The UWI survey titled [‘The Impact of the University of the West Indies – Cave Hill Campus on the Economy of Barbados’, noted that in 2013 the campus generated almost BDS$87 million in foreign exchange while sugar earned about BDS$16 million and rum approximately BDS$86 million.

“It makes no sense UWI going out there on a public relations campaign, to try to justify in the minds of Barbadians, the need for the Government to give them high levels of subsidies and to pay for university education for all Barbadians,” said Industry and Commerce Minister Donville Inniss.

Last August, Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Chris Sinckler in his 2013/14 budget presentation, said that effective 2014, Barbadian students pursuing studies at the university’s three campuses will be required to pay their own tuition fees, while the government continues to fund economic costs.

Sinckler said the tuition fees range from BDS$5,625 to BDS$65,000 (One Barbados dollar=US$0.50 cents) and that the new policy would reduce the transfer to UWI by an estimated BDS$42 million a year.

Inniss said that the economists who work at the UWI, “ought to be able to advise the principal that the method of financing university education, that existed from the 1960s, is no longer sustainable” suggesting also that Cave Hill needed “to put aside the charade and PR and deal with the substantive issues”.

The senior government minister also questioned how the report and its findings were compiled, contending that the Government’s investment in education far exceeds its contribution to the rum sector and therefore it was a mistake to compare the two.

”Whatever study UWI produces, the reality about it, is that this government or any future government, whether it’s the DLP or BLP, cannot pay for the university education in full for all Barbadians.

“That is a simple harsh reality we all have to face,” he said, calling on the University to operate as a business and not as a school.

Education Minister Ronald Jones also dismissed the study telling the Barbados Today publication “I don’t know about comparing rum. I look strictly at the provision of education for Barbadians and Caribbean students. And how that is accessed; the ability of them to access it; how many students access it; what we have to do to more regionalise and internationalise the University of the West Indies so that in fact more foreign exchange comes into the economy as a result of the expansion to cater to international students. That has to be the basis.

“The debate can’t be about rum only brings in $30 or $40 million, the university brings in $35 or $80 [million],” Jones said.

“The debate has to be about how we can support education, how education benefits the development of our marginalised societies and of our people– that has to be the debate. I am not interested in ‘sugar cane is on its way out, so rum on the way out too’. I am not interested in that kind of debate.”

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