Categorized | National News

Price Tag Rises For New Agriculture School

Despite its estimated cost rising exponentially from earlier estimates of between $1 million to $4 million to now almost $20 million, the new agricultural institute remains on schedule to open next September, said Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister V. Alfred Gray.

The institute, which will be housed on North Andros, is intended for high school graduates interested in pursuing careers in agriculture and those demonstrate a keen interest in farming.

The school, which will also provide students with the scientific and technological tools needed to make them competitive in this field and will seek to attract and offer competitive packages to teachers, comes at a hefty price tag.

But Minister Gray said Wednesday, whatever the cost – in time – the institute will pay it off.

“As we discussed the school, more things have become enlightened to us and so what we thought we could do has been broadened by multiples,” he said. “So if we intended to put $5 million for teachers, we might now have to put $10 million for teachers alone. It’s the multiplying effect of what we intend to do that causes the price to go up.

“But we are not going to focus on the price because the Bahamian people will afford it and hopefully we will get some help from international donors and we welcome them to help us; and even if they don’t help us, we are resolved as a government to ensure that we put The Bahamas on a path to feeding itself in the future.”

Prime Minister Perry Christie announced the government’s plans to open the institute during his budget communication in the House of Assembly in June.

At the time, the prime minister explained that the school would create employment on the island and play a significant role in moving The Bahamas away from its dependency on foreign imports.

The Bahamas currently imports over $1 billion in food annually.

Mr. Gray, who fielded questions from reporters following his address to students at an event to mark World Food Day at Arawak Cay, said that construction on the institute has just gotten underway, but nonetheless he was confident that the project was on schedule.

The minister also denied claims that the Chinese Government is financing the construction of the facility, though he welcomed its support.

“The Chinese Government has not made any direct contribution to our Andros efforts as yet,” Mr. Gray said. “Twenty million dollars – $12 million, those are the figures that are being thrown around and since China has money in the banks I don’t think The Bahamas Government would object to them contributing as a friend the assistance that might be required to get the school running. If they don’t, we will still do it.

“But we are a friendly country – China has been friendly to The Bahamas. They have given us grants before and this is another opportunity that I hope they will see as important enough for them to contribute something to it. Whatever it is we welcome whatever assistance we can get as long as there is nothing attached to cause the breach to our sovereignty – the more the merrier.”

The school will have 50 students during its first year and then it expects to increase enrollment in the ensuing years.

Scholarships are also available to students meeting specific criteria.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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