Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley’s statement on the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) appears to represent a policy shift by the government.
Rowley voiced his government’s commitment to GATE but said he wanted to cut out waste, abuse and corruption.
He also noted the “very serious budget deficits” and the fact that the funding program costs, according to him, $750 million a year.
But when he delivered a mid-year budget analysis last April, Finance Minister Colm Imbert provided another rationale for cutting back on GATE funding.
Imbert said, “it is time for the program to conserve expenditure and make a paradigm shift towards a better alignment with the country’s development needs.”
He also spoke of the introduction of “some means of means testing.”
His major argument was that, through GATE, the country had “achieved a significant increase in the tertiary education participation rate.”
He said the hike had moved from 11 percent in 2001 to 55 percent in 2015.
The parliamentary opposition has stated that the participation rate is 65 percent.
Imbert said he would not dispute that figure.
There appears, therefore, to be contrasting policy positions between Rowley and Imbert.
The Prime Minister has advocated the need to clean up the system but to keep the program intact.
His Finance Minister suggests that GATE has served its purpose and it is time to revamp the entire system.
They are both on common ground, however, on the need to cut government funding.
Imbert has put the annual cost at $600 million.
The fate of the funding program is to be decided by Cabinet ahead of the start of the academic year, in September.
A technical review committee has submitted a voluminous report.