In the previous article dates 24 April 2015 we addressed the sorry state of the Arnos Vale Sports Complex as one of the startling contradictions of the current political administration even as it boasts of having the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) borrow $6.5m from the National Insurance Services (NIS) for the upgrading of the nation’s sports facilities.
Given that the nation is not yet privy to which sports facilities have been identified for upgrade and the precise nature of the upgrades one is not certain as to what will in fact be achieved.
The average Vincentian will be left pondering whether the whole boast of upgrading the nation’s sports facilities actually goes beyond naked politics as the nation braces itself for another bruising general elections battle.
It remains shocking nonetheless that the NLA should have had to turn to the NIS for this kind of assistance. From the outside it does not seem a wise investment for the NIS. Whether the arrangement will prove a wise investment for sport remains to be seen and the sports fraternity will have to monitor and evaluate what they see being done wherever.
Under the current political dispensation we have seen the NLA taking on different roles, which have given some reason to be concerned.
The NLA is an organisation that has seen significant growth in profits over the years of its existence.
MacGregor Sealey, its manager since the early 1980s is well aware of the transformation of the organisation during his tenure there. It has been transformed from a small almost innocuous institution to a multimillion-dollar well-staffed organisation.
From very early the mandate of the NLA is to support sport and culture. Indeed, the early logo carried that phrase.
Over the years however the Vincentian populace has witnessed the tremendous growth of the organisation through to the point where it was able to purchase the Cecil Cyrus Squash Complex and remodel it to serve as its headquarters while allowing the local squash association to have a place to call home.
No one can envy the NLA for its achievements over the years.
A tremendous amount of credit must go to that phase in the NLA’s development under the Chairmanship of Stephen Joachim. This saw the professionalising of the organisation and the introduction of the 3D daily game that fit neatly into the profile of those who enjoy games of chance with instant gratification.
The profit of the organisation soared significantly at the time and has maintained that trend since.
There are those who would readily agree that the NLA should be able to deliver an annual report on just how much of its resources are actually spent on its original mandate – supporting sport and culture.
Vincentians are aware that monies from the NLA are spent on other causes but these is hardly ever made public.
It would be very interesting to get a sense of the ratio of monies from the NLA spent on other causes versus what is annually allocated to sport and culture.
NLA and Sport Facilities
The NLA, for the first time in its history, became involved in the management of sport facilities under the current political administration when it was given responsibility for the Victoria Park.
Prior to this the Victoria Park was under the administration of the Kingstown Town Board.
The truth is even after the establishment of the National Sports Council (NSC) and giving it the mandate to establish, develop and maintain all sport facilities in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Victoria Park was seen as an aberration. It was a veritable cash cow for the Kingstown Town Board given that it remains the premier entertainment centre in the capital city, Kingstown.
The transfer of the Victoria Park to the NLA meant that the latter institution then had to create a new department to accommodate its expanded mandate.
Sportspeople have not been too upset at the transformation of administration of the Victoria Park since it mean that there were more people allocated the responsibility for maintaining the playing area in a manner that did not exist hitherto. The NLA has the resources to procure whatever equipment is needed for the maintenance of the Victoria Park and that means much to the sportspeople who use the facilities.
For the NLA however, this was a significant change of its mandate. It was now involved in virgin territory and had to quickly learn to operate this aspect of its activities.
South Rivers & Park Hill
For many years it was the understanding of many that the Victoria Park was special and still a place of entertainment and so the arrangements under the NLA would be similar in nature to that which existed when the Kingstown Town Board administered the facility.
In the recent past however, the NLA has been called upon to expand its operations in respect of sport facilities in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Vincentians suddenly learnt that the NLA was responsible for funding the construction of two playing fields, one in South Rivers and the other in Park Hill.
The one in South Rivers is fully lit and it is understood that plans are to provide appropriate lighting for the one in Park Hill.
The involvement of the NLA in the two aforementioned sport facilities has however raised some issues.
For the past several years we have seen work start and stop at the proposed new playing field at Cumberland. In hindsight it appears that this facility has received the attention of the governmental authorities only at election time. Once the electioneering period is finished tools are put down and all work comes to a standstill.
The people of Cumberland have observed the trend and expect that as the election fever rises they may well see the playing field finally completed in the near future.
In the case of the new playing fields at South Rivers and Park Hill, there appears not to have been any problems. After all, the funding appears to have been guaranteed from the NLA.
Importantly though, it is necessary to ask whether the fact that the two playing fields are in the Prime Minister’s constituency makes the real difference.
For sure there are many other areas in St Vincent and the Grenadines in need of well planned and constructed sport facilities and would relish the opportunity to access the funds of the NLA so that they too can benefit from lighting at the end of the construction.
There is nothing wrong with a Prime Minister ensuring that his constituency received due attention in respect of development. That is to be expected and is the norm around the Caribbean.
Every Prime Minister attempts to show his constituents that he is worthy of their support and ensures that all facilities and attendant amenities are in top shape.
For us here however the issue is the seeming disparity between what has been done in South Rivers and Park Hill compared to the sport facilities in other constituencies.
These facilities are placed under the NLA and not the NSC. Why?
Is it that the NLA has an expanded mandate in respect of the establishment, development, maintenance and administration of playing fields?
If this is the case then who determines what facilities are placed under the responsibility of the NLA?
What conditions have to be met to access the NLA’s funding regarding the establishment, development, maintenance and administration of playing fields?
There is also nothing wrong with the NLA expanding its mandate regarding sport facilities in St Vincent and the Grenadines. However we do need to know whether its work is complementary to that of the NSC and to what extent.
We do not wish to have two important agencies, the NLA and the NSC, competing with each other in respect of the establishment, development, maintenance and administration of playing fields in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The right hand must know what the left hand is doing.
The attention that the NSC can pay to the maintenance of sport facilities cannot be compared with that of the NLA. The NLA has resources and what it does not have it can readily acquire given its financial base.
If therefore we are having the NLA involved in the establishment, development, maintenance and administration of playing fields then it leaves one to wonder whether or not there is still need for the NSC given the fact that the latter does not have the resources needed to provide the consistency and quality maintenance our sport facilities require.
Perhaps we need to raise the all-important question of whether or not the government of the day is really keen on a sport policy that is fully operational and serves the collective best interest.
St Vincent and the Grenadines is blessed with sporting talent. We need to provide quality sport facilities so that the talent can be adequately nurtured to the point of blossom.
We need an agency armed with the appropriate resources to establish, develop, maintain and administer our playing fields.