October 20, 2020

The Editor Speaks: The NBF row


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Colin WilsonwebThe NBF – the National Bush Fund – whoops! The National BUILDING Fund was set up by ex-Premier McKeeva Bush with no favourtism and a council was appointed to decide how the grants would be awarded. His only involvement was the final approval, Bush said.

Bush actually kept a straight face when he said this in the Legislative Assembly last Thursday (21).

“There was no child turned away that I could help,” he cried. “None!! And over the years from my age group there were far too many people falling through the crack. And so, that’s why Nation Building came in. It came in for special purposes. Special children who had music abilities, special children who had sport abilities and we wanted to build a nation that way. It meant that they would get more than a child who was going to UCCI or Dade Community College. That’s all it was …it was not picking out anybody to give special treatment more than special needs for special education.”

He didn’t disclose the names of the members on this council, who placed them there, who decided who would receive the grants and/or how much they received. Would he really have us to believe he wasn’t the person who decided all these things?

If there was a council how many times did they meet? Did it just use the OK rubber stamp? What was the criteria? It was public money being used. Surely there had to be some rules and regulations? Bush rules, of course.

Premier Hon. Alden McLaughlin announced he was cutting some of the scholarships in half in January 2014.

McLaughlin said, “It would be hard to conceive of a more disastrous programme or disastrous set of circumstances surrounding these grants. There was little in terms of a system and the premier was the person deciding who got the scholarships.”

If you were a close friend of Mr Bush, the premier said, you got the grant. Favouring people on the basis of support for a politician instead of merit was divisive.

Some students who received education grants received three and a half times the maximum scholarship given to students through the normal procedure administered by the Education Council.

“We don’t want young people to get kicked out of programmes and not be able to go ahead. That’s why we said it’s too late. But we cannot have some students receiving $71,000 a year and other students off of the waiting list and can’t get a scholarship at all, because that’s where we are with this programme. Whether you get a scholarship in this country ought not to have anything to do with whether you support the Premier, the UDP, the Progressives, the C4C, it ought to be on the basis of merit,” McLaughlin added.

McLaughlin challenged Bush to present the evidence that his NBF was fair and transparent.

I fear we will have a very ling wait.

But we will hear a lot of words from Mr. Bush. Just as many as the chirping birds.

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