Loan Motion for Education Sector Presented in House Meeting
A loan motion was tabled in today’s House Meeting geared for the education sector. Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, presented the motion, saying that it is for fifteen million US dollars. The loan is being gotten for a 25-year-term inclusive of sixty-six months grace period. The loan is earmarked for STEAM skills in secondary and the ITVETS, as well as the 4iR, which is the Fourth Industrial Revolution that deals with robotics and evolving technology. Rising to speak on this loan motion was the opposition leader who criticized the government for regularly coming to the house with loan motions.
Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “The problem that we have Madam Speaker is access to these programs. We have about $700 million dollars in loans from this government, public debt that the tax payers have to pay back over the last three years and many of these programs come just like this. I can’t argue with this. It is excellent that we can invest for those children who may not be academically inclined to be able to learn a skillset sop that they can do for themselves but certainly this government is not going to give them any hand outs or hands up Madam Speaker but the problem is tax payers are paying for this loan but there is no access. Whether it’s the MSME loans that you get, the loans for the farmers that you get there is no attempt or a very incompetent effort by the government for awareness so that the tax payers can know how they can access these programmings and access for all. You know I spoke to the Minister about free education Minister and you told me that all south side high schools are free, no you had told me all you said all of the schools on the south side were free. Well I won’t debate you but I’m just saying sir I just want to be clear because I remember I asked you in the chambers all of the schools on the south side ? Anyway Madam Speaker we on the opposition side want equal opportunity. We don’t want it to be like the grocery bags where only the PUP area representatives get to direct where things go and John Public suffers Madam Speaker and we believe that is what has been happening. We don’t get the awareness. We don’t get “Go here. Go there.” I send people to the Ministry of Human Services all the time and they’re turned away but then I hear that ministers that is where you go to get your grocery bags Madam Speaker. So we just want it that these loan motions that are being borrowed are on behalf of the Belizean people and I implore the government to do more to make sure that you’re inclusive and that all Belizeans have access to these programs that you’re borrowing on their behalf. Thank you Madam Speaker.”
Former Minister of Education, Patrick Faber, also spoke on the loan motion. After listing out his hopes in terms of the proper utilization of the loan, he gave his endorsement of the loan motion.
Patrick Faber, Area Representative, Collet: “I too agree that the loan motion before us is a good one. Of course you know that I will never argue against a loan motion for education because I believe it is the greatest machine or vehicle that we have to elevate the citizenry of this country and as my colleague the member of Mesop has said a part of the loan proceeds here and the grant proceeds will be used to further the curriculum if you will or the program of instruction at the STEAM center that is being built in Belize City at the ITVET which was secured under another loan from the the International InterAmerican Development Bank. And in fact Madam Speaker this you know I want to say things but I want to be cautious as well, I want to say that the IDB has been a great partner in helping us in terms of – in fact it is the greatest partner my recollection tells me for education projects. We had EQIP 1, we had EQIP 2 now we’re seeing this kind of initiative but while they are our greatest support in terms of finding the funding for these initiatives we have got to be careful Madam Speaker that we’re utilizing the funds in the places that are most necessary and also that we’re getting the best bang for our buck. Now I know that the clerk circulated some documents showing the contract and explaining what is it called the granting agency how that works and all of that but the truth is that quite often when we make these loans Madam Speaker we don’t get the best bang for our buck and I’ve cautioned about that in this house before. If you read the details of the contractual agreement it speaks a lot of detail about how you go about getting consultants and getting professionals to help along with these initiatives and quite often a lot of money goes into that kind of thing getting consultants and enough money does not go into what we specified the loans are for. So I want to caution along those lines again when we engage with entities, these international financial institutions. I will say on the record Madam Speaker that when it comes to this kind of borrowing I will support it. Some of the other things, and we will see maybe get into some of those details once we get to the supplementary and start discussing budget figures and supplemental figures again but for the record I support this motion.”
The program will consist of three components whose activities will increase access to instruction that accelerates learning in foundational skills; increase access to instruction that promotes learning in 4iR skills, and increase access to gender-specific education services to promote inclusive education.