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Confusion Reigns 1 – The ‘Green Holes’ Of Debt

pam-burnsideI have read with amazement several news articles over the past week that have prompted me to put pen to paper once again! In the October 1st edition of the Nassau Guardian’s National News segment the headline states “Govt to borrow $16 mil. for COB” for its transition to University status, whilst in the Editorial of the same date entitled “The dream called BAMSI” it states that the Prime Minister, in his quest to reduce our $1 billion annual food import bill, is throwing approximately $100 million into the BAMSI project.

The $100 million BAMSI facility opened its doors in Andros last week catering to only 35 students, no sorry – 40 students (as 5 more are supposed to be coming), all of whom are on scholarship, i.e. their tuition is also being paid by government – BUT the facilities are not ready yet, so government is also paying additional rent for room, board and food for them, as well as renting temporary accommodations for the classrooms in which to teach them……BUT there is the question of the agricultural course itself which, as I understand it, is already presently a part of the School of Chemistry, Environmental and Life Sciences curriculum at COB…..SO there must be lecturers already at COB for this (but BAMSI/Ministry of Education is still in the process of ‘negotiating’ the memorandum of understanding for this outside of the knowledge of the Union of Tertiary Educators for COB who seem to be in the dark)…..SO it seems as if the students will not be coming to Nassau to do that course, but are in Andros being taught by maybe another set of teachers resident there (as their housing is luckily completed)…..BUT if BAMSI doesn’t have its curriculum sorted out yet, what are the students actually being taught, theory wise, in their makeshift classrooms ….BUT they don’t really need classrooms for the practical part of the course because they will be carrying out field work on the already established BAMSI farms. SO this $100 mil. investment presently cannot expect any significant returns for several years yet in order to mitigate the country’s $1 billion food import bill. Hmmmm…….

Meanwhile COB, that has rather more than 40 students (all of whom are paying their tuition and other fees) is sadly lacking in MANY ESSENTIAL areas. I have already made my opinion know on the COB transition to University topic, so that’s not the issue here – this is: It is easier to do things right the first time and to properly improve what you already have, than to start something from scratch on speculation.

WHAT IF a portion of that same $100 mil. had been allocated to COB for its upgrade, and then a scaled down BAMSI facility was designed as a practical field work facility that students would travel to AFTER completing their Associate of Science Degree in Agribusiness and Agriculture at COB; or WHAT IF interested students from several of the VERY ACTIVE FARMING schools in Nassau and the Family Islands (and there are quite a few of them who are doing impressive work and producing first class produce) had been given agricultural scholarships to attend COB; or WHAT IF funds had been allocated to the very farmers who are struggling to keep their farms operating to provide them with more training opportunities with constant monitoring and proper follow up??? It’s too late now, but we, the people, must make the effort to point out these inconsistencies because we, our children, grand children, and children yet to be born are the ones who will be footing the bill!

A solid long term vision, a proper master plan for the country’s development accompanied by proper research by qualified consultants, proper planning, planning and still more planning, relevant collaborations, proper budgeting, clear communication and organization, realistic timelines, committed stakeholders, adequate financing, and stringent controls, oversight and maintenance – all these and more are essential to complete projects  in a meaningful and fiscally accountable way. But this is not happening – we, the citizens, are blithely informed after the fact of the millions and billions of dollars that continue to be borrowed and spent indiscriminately as we dig ourselves deeper and deeper in debt!

Maybe they are planning on growing some money trees at BAMSI in these enormous ‘green holes’ of debt they are digging!

Pam Burnside

Posted in Opinions

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