There has been much talk about the fact that the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) borrowed $6.5m from the National Insurance Services (NIS) to facilitate the upgrading of sport facilities across St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The decision is all about government’s attempt at showing the nation that it is doing something in respect of sport infrastructure in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Is this really the case or is it something else?
Were the monies borrowed by the NLA intended to develop sport infrastructure in St Vincent and the Grenadines?
Did the timing of the borrowing of the aforementioned monies coincide with the government’s preparation for the general elections of 2015 and by extension the orchestration of the elections campaign of the ruling ULP administration?
Was the acquisition of the $6.5m intended to give the sportspeople of this country the impression of a party and government being concerned about sports infrastructure of the country and by extension concern for the sport practitioners?
Was the focus on sport infrastructure a matter of significant sums being wasted?
Who’s in charge
One of the most challenging aspects of the matter of the NLA’s loan from the NIS regarding the proposed development of sport infrastructure is that the Vincentian sporting community has in no way been involved in the planning. Indeed many do not know the nature of the plans regarding use of the finances.
Some may well suggest that if there was a project or programme intended for the use of the $6.5m then it must have been one of the best kept secrets in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In the absence of any publicly declared project or programme it is not possible for there to be any clear understanding by the Vincentian sporting community of how to access the resources that were available.
Were resources available from the $6.5m to the Vincentian sporting community?
How were the organisations within the sporting community in the nation supposed to access these resources?
To whom did one have to turn to access resources from the $6.5m?
Who exactly was and probably still is in charge of the project that has a funding base of $6.5m?
Did sporting associations have access to the facility?
Tennis had the good fortune of getting the courts at its headquarters at Villa resurfaced. Our understanding is that this was a longstanding request to the NLA from the Tennis fraternity and so the budget was submitted ahead of the undertaking. But did the funds for the resurfacing of the courts come from the $6.5m?
Does the NLA have to account to the Vincentian public?
One would have imagined that being a government institution that this would be the case but the reality may well be a very different matter.
Perhaps we have all misunderstood the matter of the NLA borrowing monies from the NIS for sport infrastructure development. We may well have been seeing it all wrong by thinking that somehow we were supposed, as a Vincentian public, to somehow become involved in the business of the NLA and government.
The various sport facilities in St Vincent and the Grenadines have generally been more political than anything else. There has always been a sense that the politicians are the key determinants of what, when and where sports facilities are established. The concerns of the national sports associations are considered only on very rare occasions.
It is generally held that the national sports associations have no rights in St Vincent and the Grenadines. They therefore do not have a say in the way things are done. Indeed for the most part the politicians, knowing little or nothing about sport, often seek to impose their will and that of the ruling party on the national sports associations.
Participants of sport practised in St Vincent and the Grenadines are often amazed at the lack of synergy between the development strategies of sports associations and national government policies or lack of policies.
Electoral politics has consistently proven to be the scourge of national sports associations. During the preparation for elections ruling political parties are anxious to convince the electorate that it is interested in them and their wellbeing. Thus we find them engaged in an undue haste to establish sports facilities. In the end many of the decisions are often utterly ridiculous.
Perhaps the most important fact is that the government does not have an appreciation for sport. This has meant that the national sport policy is not worth the paper on which it is written.
In an economy where it is a challenge to get to a stage where the people’s take home pay can actually take them home, sport is nothing more than an appropriate political tool.
It is therefore to be expected that the allocation of the portfolio of sport is given to a politician who has to be so busy doing other things that he has little time for this discipline.
More often than not the ministers of sport not only lack knowledge and understanding of sport but they consistently fail to seek out the requisite knowledge. They then seek to pontificate to those involved in sport with little realisation of their folly.
The reality is that ministers of sport often seek to lord it over national sports associations simply because they are in government and so dictate to the entire society as to what would be done.
It is therefore not in any way surprising that we could have been shocked to hear the news that the NLA, of all institutions, needed to borrow $6.5m from the NIS for sport infrastructure.
Equally not surprising is the fact that there is so much secrecy surrounding the development of sport infrastructure using the $6.5 that has been borrowed.
For sure, there has been no consultation with national sports associations on what infrastructure is needed. One would have imagined that such consultation would have been consistent with the fundamentals of a consultative democracy as once promised for our society.
Consultation would have engendered a better understanding of the state of sport infrastructure in the country and allowed for a prioritisation of the needs before establishing a plan of action.
On Saturday 19 March 2016, the National Sports Council in Collaboration with the National Lotteries Authority will be hosting its Stakeholders meeting on March 19, 2016 at the President Suite Arnos Vale Sporting Complex beginning at 9:00a.m
Had there been any level of seriousness regarding the importance of developing sport infrastructure in St Vincent and the Grenadines by the government of the day time would have been taken to bring these same institutions together to engage in precisely the type of analysis being suggested in this Column.
But the situation has already been determined and there is little chance of national sports associations being able to impact the process. Decisions have already been taken without their involvement.
The meeting, as has been the case several times in the past when it was erroneously labelled, a tripartite meeting, can at best be a veritable talk shop at which the NSC and the NLA as well as the government minister and officials could at best inform the associations of what has already been determined and decided.
There is really no consultation with national sports associations.
The beneficiaries of what is on offer are the ones that seem to have the ears of the leaders of the ruling administration.
A little building has been erected on the Buccament playing field. The quaint little box has many, including the several students at the Buccament Bay Secondary School wondering about the purpose of the edifice.
Some seem to think that the original intention may well have been to erect a public bath and toilet when suddenly it dawned on someone that they could actually make it taller and add some seating.
Anyone who takes the time to visit the Buccament playing field would be left in awe ate the incredulity of what has been constructed there. Hopefully it was someone’s personal expenditure rather than monies from the borrowed $6.5m.
The Buccament playing field is one of the larger such facility in St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is regularly used and there is a secondary school adjacent to it and which uses it for physical activity. How could anyone with any modicum of understanding of sport be so insensitive as to conceptualised, far less construct, such an edifice at the facility.
It is amazing to hear the politicians proudly boast of the number of playing fields that have been and are being refurbished. None of them is making mention of costs since this may well prove contentious.
Not one of the politicians that boast of sport infrastructural development has thought it appropriate to get a sense of what associations want. They have all the answers since they are the ones determining what happens where.
Has the NSC been involved in determining what sport infrastructural needs the sports associations have? Did they know this without consulting the associations?
One thing is certain. On every playing field that is being established or refurbished pride of place is given to ensuring that an adequate cricket pitch is provided as though that is the only sport practise din the country or that it is the nation’s most popular sport, neither of which is true.
The approach to sport development at the governmental level is decidedly flawed, fraught as it is with political myopia and crass deficiency in respect of knowledge and understanding of physical literacy, physical education and sport.