The Opposition New Democratic Party has welcomed the decision by the government to adopt its policy and reduce the interest on student loans to 4.5%
“We welcome that because that’s a proposal that we had made and continue to make as an opposition since 2020,” Opposition Leader Godwin Friday told an NDP press conference in Kingstown on Wednesday.
“The government should have adopted it back then. Had that done so, students now would have saved thousands of dollars during that time.”
During the Budget Address on Monday, Minister of Finance Camillo Gonsalves that the government is reducing from 6 to 4.5% the interest on loans from the National Student Loans Company.
In 2020, the NDP said that if elected to office, it would it would cut the interest rates from 8 and 9% down to 4.5%
When the party first announced the police, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves dismissed it as opportunistic and unsustainable.
Then, in his independence address last October, Gonsalves announced that the government intends to reduce as this January.
Friday said he could not “really believe my ears” when the finance minister announced on Monday that the rate would be reduced to 4.5%.
“But what is really remarkable is at the time when the NDP when I presented that proposal as a plan, as a plank of the NDP’s election campaign in 2020, the prime minister … ridiculed it. He said it was unsustainable. It was a product of NDP opportunism,” Friday said.
Friday noted that the prime minister had noted then that the money for the programme comes from the National Insurance Services and that “the programme would crash” if the interest rates were reduced as the opposition promised to do.
“And all of a sudden now, they have seen the light and they have decided that this is good policy, and a lot of students would benefit from it. So, we welcome it,” Friday said.
He said there are lots of other things that the NDP has said, some of which the government has started to adopt.
“But it shows very clearly that this government has run out of ideas,” he said.
He said that the premature end to the Budget Debate on Wednesday “demonstrated this morning in the parliament is that it also has run out of energy”.
The prime minister called on the finance minister to wrap up the debate when no one stood after 10 second to continue the debate.
At that time, two of the government’s13 MPs and two of the opposition’s 8 lawmakers had taken part in the debate.
The prime minister called for the wrap up of the debate without contributing to it, although he is entitled to a four-hour presentation.
“The Prime Minister, it was a dereliction of duty on his part not to rise this morning to show leadership to the junior members of his team,” Friday said.
“Imagine calling on senators who for them this is the first budget debate and expecting them to debate and he as a member being in Parliament since …  doesn’t debate.”
The opposition leader said he was “still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s just such a dereliction of duty. It is just such disrespect for the people of this country,” Friday said.