Sunday 26 May, 2019

Government accused of destroying international business

FILE - University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

FILE - University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.

Barbados Labour Party candidate for St. James South, Sandra Husbands, has accused the Freundel Stuart administration of seriously hindering the international business sector in Barbados by implementing self-paid tuition fees at The University of the West Indies (UWI).

Husbands spoke to the media at her constituency office today where she tore apart government’s policies on business facilitation and taxation as she outlined the details for an upcoming public lecture entitled ‘Readying Barbados for 21st Century Business Opportunities’.

The lecture will include panellists Henderson Holmes, Executive Director of the Barbados International Business Association (BIBA); President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW), Akanni McDowall; Michael Archer, former director of the office of Public Sector Reform; Steven Williams, ICT expert; and businessman, Benjamin Williams.

Husbands said it is unreasonable for Government to expect to build up sectors such as the International Business and Financial Services sector if young people are being hindered from pursuing tertiary education at The UWI.

She noted this strategy was counterproductive to the growth of the economy.

“You cannot determine that your bright, intelligent, articulate, skillful people will all be born in upper-middle-class families. We have to be able to make access for the children of ordinary Barbadians - bright and talented. That is one of the reasons why we must rethink that policy otherwise we will not provide sufficient employable young people to service the international business sector.”

Husbands highlighted the fact that the IBFS sector had shrunk over the years and was no longer contributing as much to the economy as it did in the past. She claimed it was clear Government was paying no attention to those in the lower-middle and working-class families.

“You have $3.3 billion. Are you telling me that $30 million presents a major problem to you to be able to facilitate poor people's children to have access to tertiary education? I say no.

I have watched the decimation of the University population. I can tell you the number of children who have come to me and said ‘I am not going to be able to finish my course of study because my parents cannot afford it’.”

During the BLP annual general conference over the weekend, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley had promised to restore Government's payment of tuition fees if elected. Husbands suggested it was also necessary to prioritise subject areas which can boost the economy and provide sponsorship to those pursuing these types of degrees.

She said the alternative would be a bleak future for the region’s top campus and force the removal of some degrees from UWI offerings.

“We are now in a position because we have put the University at risk because instead of being able to entertain 8,000 students a year they find themselves now down in 5,000 or 4,000 students.”

She added the ripple effect would mean a shrinking of the campus, making it less attractive to regional and international students who wish to study in Barbados. She also said it could affect those in the St. James South constituency who make a living from renting accommodation to those studying at the campus.

The public lecture is scheduled to be held on November 8 at the Island Inn Hotel with a start time of 7 p.m.

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