'WHAT IS YOUR AGENDA?': Tertiary Education Minister Fazal Karim displays a document during his contribution at yesterday's sitting of the Lower House at the Parliament Chamber, Tower D, Port of Spain. —Photo: AYANNA KINSALE

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Karim slams Opposition 'mischief' over GATE

By Julien Neaves

TERTIARY Education Minister Fazal Karim has described an Opposition motion about the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) as designed to "create mischief, confusion and panic".

"They wish to create confusion in the minds of our parents and students about the future of GATE," he said.

He was responding to a motion by Port of Spain North/St Ann's West MP Patricia McIntosh calling for Government to stop any proposed amendment to the GATE during yesterday's sitting of the House, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain.

He noted that the original Cabinet minute referred to GATE as Government assistance for tuition expenses, and not "tertiary education", as McIntosh's motion assumed. He pointed out that this administration had been increasing its contribution to GATE which did not give the indication that GATE was being closed as the Opposition asserted, a claim that dated back to the last national elections.

Karim also noted that despite McIntosh's statements about a lack of consultation there was national consultations on securing and expanding GATE programme in November 2011, one in Trinidad and Tobago.

"The statement that the Government has not consulted with the citizenry in areas of socio-economic priorities as well as the areas of priority study are ludicrous, outlandish, false and deliberately misleading," he said.

He asked the Opposition: "Why do you continue to do this? What is your agenda?"

He noted that principal of The University of the West Indies Mona Campus, Gordon Shirley had expressed concern that a lot of graduates were unemployed and many "unemployable" because of their degrees.

He said locally the average cost of tertiary education programmes financed by GATE increased from $4358 in 2004 to $13,176 in 2011.

He noted that the increases in tertiary education costs locally and internationally meant that Government had to ensure it was receiving value for money with the GATE programme and alignment to development goals was "critical".

Karim said under the People's National Movement administration GATE was poorly conceptualised, managed and implemented. He spoke on this administration's plans to introduce e-service architecture by September 2013 and GATE would be re-engineered.

"The GATE programme is intended to serve national interest and not individual or personal interest," he stressed.

He said the motion gave him the opportunity to "clear the air once and for all" about GATE.

"The GATE programme continues to stay open, it is secured, it is safe, it is healthy, it will expand under the People's Partnership Government," he added.

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