By Latrishka Thomas
Prime Minister Gaston Browne promised the residents of Antigua and Barbuda that the government will be mobilising millions of dollars towards the recently approved University of the West Indies (UWI) Five Islands Campus in just two weeks.
“Mr. Speaker, as you know, we have a dedicated tax which will yield about $15 million a year to assist with the funding of the university. Now, that tax will be collected at the end of the year but I am giving an undertaking to this Honourable House and the people of Antigua and Barbuda that within the next 14 days, we will raise between $10 million and $15 million which we will advance to the university to make sure that they have the necessary funding to operate; and this is outside of the income streams that we have identified,” Browne said in Parliament yesterday.
The prime minister also disclosed that grant funding from the government of China will assist in expanding the campus.
“The next tranche of funding that we get from the Chinese as a grant, we will use the proceeds to further expand the Five Islands Campus to add additional facilities. As it stands now, that facility is worth about US $25 million and we intend to spend US $25 million to expand the facility to make it into a really impressive campus facility, because you have to understand, we are seeking here to facilitate students throughout the OECS sub-region,” he added.
Browne also said that although the funds will go towards constructing additional lecture halls and other essential spaces, he hopes that private agencies will step up to the plate and assist in building dormitories and proper housing to accommodate the students from the sub-region.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Browne said he believes the fourth landed campus will help to boost Antigua and Barbuda’s economic growth. However, this is contingent on enhancing the necessary intellectual resources within the shores of the twin island.
“And you know Mr. Speaker that during the past five years this country’s economy would have grown on average of approximately five percent. Our aspiration is to take the level of growth beyond five percent perhaps up to about seven percent, but in order to maintain such a robust growth we need to enhance the human resource capabilities of our country in order to satisfy the requirements and to reduce the amount of people who we have to import especially from extra-regionally with the skills to satisfy the growth prospects of our country,” Browne, who is also the Minister of Finance, stated.