The recent announcement of the National Lotteries Authority borrowing $6.5m from the National Insurance Services for the purpose of upgrading sports facilities around the country is cause for serious concern, especially among our young people who are keen on participating in and ultimately excelling in sport.
The National Lotteries Authority (NLA) has as its mandate, to support sport and culture. It is however extremely difficult to get any sense of precisely what percentage of the annual profits of the NLA actually goes to sport and what goes to culture.
Unfortunately not much attention is given to the foregoing fact except when carnival comes around and the components start quibbling about the need for increased prize-money. Once the carnival festivities have concluded the interest in what proportion of the NLA’s resources are actually placed at the service of cultural activities here in a single year, merely dissipates.
In the case of sport the national sports associations have each been seeking its own interest such that there is no collective approach to sport development that permits the determination of a harmonious approach to the matter of government financing of physical activity and sport in the nation.
In this sense some national associations know that they will receive financial support while others would not. There is as yet no sense of common interest in achieving a broader national goal of the genuine development of physical activity and sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines. This means that financial assistance to national sports associations is virtually akin to playing Russian Roulette – you win some and lose some.
How is it that the NLA finds itself borrowing monies in the first place?
Is the NLA not a viable economic entity?
Have we not been told that the NLA rakes in millions of dollars annually?
Why then is the NLA borrowing monies from, of all institutions, the National Insurance Services?
Will we be told that this move is also a masterstroke on the part of the national government, especially in the build up to the general elections?
There are so many questions that need to be answered on this matter of the NLA borrowing monies from the NIS.
Economists suggest that it is best to borrow ones when an organisation is doing well. If we were to follow that line of argument we may well ask why is it then that the NLA has not been borrowing monies from other institutions around the country for the past several years.
Of concern to the older persons in Vincentian society is the fact that on yet another occasion the NIS is involved in a situation where its resources are being borrowed by an agency of the government of the day.
Are we to believe that the loan to the NLA is being perceived as an investment on the part of the NIS?
Others have already expressed serious concern about the utilisation of the resources of the NIS and the implications that flow therefrom. For those who are expecting to rely on the NIS to provide for them in their later years we ask, ought they to be worried?
What is it about the NLA’s own resources that leads them to want to borrow monies from the NIS?
Why is the NLA borrowing money to upgrade sport infrastructure in St Vincent and the Grenadines at this particular juncture?
Some may want to believe that the time has come to have the NLA provide an annual report to the nation in respect of the numerous contributions that it makes to sport and culture as well as to other causes so that the people can determine whether or not it is in fact keeping its mandate.
The National Sports Council (NSC) continuously finds immense difficulty meeting its mandate. There is never enough money to facilitate this even though it gets an allocation rom the NLA on an annual basis. There is little doubt that as another government agency the leadership must be wondering how is it that aspects of its mandate appear to be hived off to another agency while it struggles to make ends meet.
The existing policy is that associations must apply for financial assistance via the NSC. The NSC then makes a recommendation to the NLA. However it appears that thereafter the NSC is left completely out of the picture and it is left to the NLA to determine whether or not it will assist and to what extent.
National associations are therefore left to wander what then is the role of the NSC in the process of accessing the financial assistance they request of them. If the NSC cannot get assistance for itself commensurate with its annual needs how is it possible for the national sports associations to feel in any way confident that their requests will be favourably addressed.
It is fair to say however that the one area of assistance that the NLA gives annually is to the Inter Primary and Inter Secondary Schools Athletics Championships. However it seems fair to suggest that the NLA should facilitate the financing of all sports championships between the nation’s schools and not just athletics. There is no one in this country that would find such a move objectionable.
What is being upgraded?
Precisely what sports facilities are being upgraded with the $6.5m?
Is this a question that we must put on the front burner of national discourse at this juncture?
The NSC has been unable to engage in the requisite maintenance of the Arnos Vale Sports Complex because of inadequate finance. Will this be one of the priority areas for the utilisation of the $6.5m?
Will we see lights being installed at the playing field in Park Hill as has been done in the case of the facility at South Rivers, bearing in mind that both are in the Prime Minister’s constituency?
Will there be an allocation to the national stadium project or will the government display some good sense and facilitate the laying of a synthetic track at Sion Hill an area of high population concentration and with easy access from neighbouring communities and schools?
Will there be any mechanism of accountability such that the Vincentian public will be allowed the luxury of knowing whether the allocated $6.5m will actually be used for the intended purpose?
The problem with this last question is that we have heard nothing beyond the commitment of the funds for the upgrading of sports facilities. There has been no public pronouncement of which facilities, where they are located, the extent of the proposed upgrade and the projected cost of such upgrades. This leaves it all like an open sesame.
One would imagine that if the government is serious about upgrading the nation’s sports facilities that the Minister of Sport would have of necessity been asked to convene a meeting of national sports associations to engage in a deliberate analysis of the existing facilities and determine just what is needed by way of upgrade. Such a meeting would also have allowed for an agreement regarding the prioritisation of needs and proposed upgrades. That such a meeting has not been convened suggests that there is little interest in having the inputs from national sports associations and therefore, with elections in the air, reeks of something more politically driven than anything else.
We have national representative teams that literally have no place to call home, that would allow for consistent practice in their respective sporting disciplines to take them to the elite level. Unfortunately they are given little more than lip service.
Our recent Carifta medal in athletics has come from woefully inadequate athletics facilities where the athletes never know when they will be guaranteed a significant stretch of uninterrupted training and competition. The achievement of Reuberth Boyde reminds us all of the immense potential that our youths possess and of what is possible if they are provided with the requisite facilities.
Happily, by its own initiative swimming will, in the next few weeks, complete the transformation of its pool to allow for it to meet international standards and therefore hope for higher level training at home.
Sport or naked politics
Is the decision to have the NLA borrow $6.5m from the NIS naked politics?
Will we see the expenditure of the $6.5m focused on near-nondescript sporting facilities in the different constituencies in an attempt by the ruling regime to garner votes from the nation’s youths?
The nation’s youths are very aware, much like the rest of us, that general elections are pending in St Vincent and the Grenadines. As happens elsewhere, our youths are conscious that in such situations governments, anxious to retain control of the main levers of government, do all in their power to woo them to cast a favourable vote by casting near-remarkable offers before them.
Our youths are also very much aware of the fact that politicians do not always keep their promises. Few of them ever apologise for having failed to deliver on their promises. They simply move on to the next generation of promises in the hope that the youths have not matured politically enough to see through them.
Importantly, the youths who are keen on sport must now be asking themselves whether or not the politicians really believe that sport as frivolity and the athletes bereft of critical analysis.