|Top News > local|
Late night Government business ruffles Opposition feathers
IT was just after 1 a.m. last Friday when Minister of Finance Christopher Sinckler wrapped up debate on the Financial Statements and Budgetary Proposals 2012, but that did not signal the end of the day’s work for those in the Lower Chamber.
The Minister moved the passing of a resolution to approve the guarantee by the Government of the repayment by the University of the West Indies – Cave Hill Campus of the sum of BDS$ 41.0 million and interest thereon borrowed from the National Insurance Board for the purpose of providing a place or places of education, learning and research to secure the advancement of knowledge.
This was immediately met by objection from Opposition Member of Parliament, Mia Mottley, who described the resolution as a substantive matter that should not be debated at 1:18 a.m.
While expressing a willingness to debate the resolution, she bemoaned that the staff of the House of Assembly were in place since 9 the previous morning, had families at home and were due to return to work within a matter of hours.
“It is not conscionable or fair,” she argued.
The Minister of Finance rebutted that it is a matter that was not new to the House, but was discussed before. “We came to the House in the Estimates of last year. We indicated that we were going to send the UWI to the NIS to borrow $41 million. They have debated this matter over and over and over again... All we are doing is bringing the resolution to guarantee the money which has already been distributed. This has been done numerous times,” he said.
He outlined that the term sheet for the loan is $41 million, the borrower the UWI, term 20 years, an interest rate of 7.75 percent per annum, calculated on an 365 day basis and repayment 32 blended semi-annual payments with interest of $2 597 767 commencing Aug 1 2012.
“The principle payments for the years 2021, 22, 25 and 26 will be capitalised and that is the basis on which we are proposing to deal with this matter,” he said.
“[For] The UWI, of course, Government can guarantee loans of up to $100 million. We have already done loans under the previous government for $7.1 million for the Cave Hill School of Business, $25 million for the School of Clinical Research, $5.61 million for the Chancellery building at Mona and therefore this is within the limit, that has been verified by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, and therefore I beg that this resolution to guarantee 41 million to the UWI be now passed,” the Minister said.
However, Opposition Leader Owen Arthur also maintained that the matter was one worthy of debate and did so for approximately 30 minutes.
“In this instance, the Government of Barbados is telling the UWI that you are providing a service for us, go to the National Insurance and get a loan to cover the cost of the service that we have an obligation to pay for. Sir there is something very wrong about it.
“This is something that is quite wrong, and it is being done as part of the ‘creative accounting’ of this Government. It does not want to show the full cost of the Government of Barbados of providing university education.
“What is being done here is something that the Government would not do, as I said, in respect of another entity providing for the Government of Barbados. The Cave Hill Campus is not an institution that the government is giving a subvention to. The Government is paying against an invoice submitted for a service rendered. And it cannot be that Parliament is being asked to support a financial arrangement, which is in both in principle and practice, wrong,” he said.
After a submission by Member of Parliament for Christ Church West, Dr. William Duguid, Leader of Government Business, John Boyce, asked that further consideration of the resolution be postponed.
The House will resume on July 10 at 10 a.m. (JH)