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Full scholarship for every first child

Phillips promises $100b in credit to small business people

By Alphea Saunders
Observer senior reporter

Monday, September 17, 2018

People's National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips yesterday gave a solemn undertaking that a PNP Government would provide full scholarships to the first child of every Jamaican family to pursue tertiary education as part of a new assault on poverty that would also see $100 billion in credit to small entrepreneurs.

In a speech that traditionally brings the annual party conference - the 80th this year — to a rousing finale, Phillips expectedly threw a series of scathing criticisms at the policies of the current Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Government describing it as the most corrupt in the history of Jamaica.

The PNP leader vowed to end what he termed the “apartheid” system of education, especially at the secondary level.

“Those youngsters at the non-traditional high schools are people that end up at betting shop door a roll a 'spliff' a morning time...Life can't go on suh, so our commitment is to change these structures by assaulting these structures and the institutions that keep poverty and inequality entrenched in this country,” he stated, adding that the PNP would mobilise the private sector, the church, and the community to change the education system.

Dr Phillips announced that a PNP Government would make tertiary education more affordable, and would establish a 'first in the family' scholarship programme to provide full scholarships for the first child of every Jamaican family to enrol in a tertiary institution.

He said attention would also be given to the Students' Loan Bureau to ensure that loans are capped at a percentage of borrowers' salaries.

“We have to make certain that if you get the loan we can't have you paying back 80 per cent of what you earn just to service the loan. We have to cap it so that you can live and at the same time service it,” he stated.

The Opposition leader also gave the undertaking that his party would set up a graduate repayment opportunity work programme, which would allow graduates to repay student loans by way of providing skills and services in the fields of health, justice, security, and education.

“So that you can pay back part of your loan by agreeing to work in communities and the state, so that you can give service to your community (and) learn civic responsibility.” Further,, he said the PNP would make changes to the legislative framework governing land titling by amending more than 55 pieces of legislation that now exist.

“We are going to make certain that it is easier for people to get titles for the land because it will make them owners of wealth in this country…Time come now that we change this thing where a few own most of the country,” he declared.

Dr Phillips said the party had identified the means to mobilise a major flow of credit of up to $100 billion to assist small business owners with their operations, so that they can build their businesses and stop operating on the fringes of the economy.

“The people that I want to get into the real economy are those people making furniture under mango trees and the people who fix cars on sidewalks... We want those people to come into the mainstream of the economy. We want them to become respectable business owners,” he said.

Meanwhile, supporters cheered wildly as the Opposition leader, dubbed “Mr Fix-it”, took the podium, picked apart the policies of the Andrew Holness Administration, highlighting the controversies which have unfolded among several state-run entities over the past several months, and accusing the Government of being the most corrupt in the country's history.

Dr Phillips said the Government lacks accountability and has not delivered on the promises it made leading up to the February 2016 election.

“The truth is, times are much harder than they were in 2016. What we know is that a whole heap of false promises were made in 2016, all the talk of prosperity has proven to be, for the majority of the people, just so-so chat…who remembers the promise to sleep with your door and your windows open? After two years this government still hasn't come up with a sustainable and effective plan to fight crime,” he stated.