Guyana begins student loan write-off ahead of delivering free university education

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Guyana’s Ministry of Finance on May 13 announced a write-off of GY$11 billion (approximately US$53 million) in loans taken by students to attend the University of Guyana. 

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had said the government would clear student debt before making the local public university tuition free

Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Ashni Singh said, “In the first instance, we are moving now to write off all loans owed by Guyanese who are able to demonstrate that they completed their course of study and graduated and subsequent to graduation, were employed or self-employed in Guyana for a minimum of three years, as evidenced by a minimum of 156 contributions made to the National Insurance Scheme [NIS].”

NIS is a semi-autonomous state insurance agency that records workers’ payments as ‘contributions’ (the metric that helps determine insurance payouts). So, mandatory contributions are proof that someone has been gainfully employed for a period.

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According to Dr. Singh, giving write-offs to that cohort first is the government’s way of giving priority to persons who have utilized their education to contribute to economic activities in the country.

“This first phase, subject to the number of persons who provide the required evidence, could potentially benefit over 13,000 Guyanese who have $11 billion in student loan debt,” Singh stated.

The government plans to make public university free by 2025, which also happens to be election year. It will be the first general election following the tapping of Guyana’s oil fund and a key opportunity for the public to exact judgment on the government’s management of the newfound resource wealth.

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