Running on E….

Empty-fuel-gauge511Several years ago this country’s ace distance runner, Pamenos Ballantyne, declared to the local and regional media that he was literally running on empty. At the time he wanted to make the point that he was woefully short of much  needed financial resources to acquire appropriate requirements for his preparation to remain at the top of distance running in the Caribbean and make an impression on the international scene.
Pamenos pointed an accusing finger at the political administration in office at the time.
A few years after government changed hands in this country, Pamenos was awarded the status of Sport Ambassador for this country, complete with diplomatic passport. It was not long before once more the local and regional media noted that he again declared that he was running on empty. He had ceased receiving the financial assistance that came via the sport ambassador status and he was literally back to square one.
The truth is that Pamenos was seen by many as having paid his dues to the current administration by mounting the political platform in 2001 to aid in putting the proverbial nail in the coffin of the government at the time and the appointment as a sport ambassador complete with funding via a private source in an arrangement with the government was deemed appropriate and sufficient. He was also unhappy at the fact that there was a significant difference in the funds flowing to some of the other appointed sport ambassadors, a fact that was never explained to him or anyone else.
However the flow of funds suddenly stopped and Pamenos was offered no explanation. He simply took to the media and hammered the ruling regime.
The reaction of an embarrassed government quickly led the administration to resume payment to Pamenos via the National Sports Council.
Today, however, it seems that we can suggest that Physical Education and Sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines are operating on empty.
The reality in sport in SVG today suggests that we might as well destroy the existing national sport [policy since it has proven to be most ineffective.
As it is now there seems reason to believe that what is written in the national sport policy no longer applies, for the most part.
We are told that the government does not approve any waiver of duty on uniforms. The last time we checked we did not see anyone making uniforms in this country.
We are here speaking of uniforms for national teams and nothing else.
It does not make sense for the government, which contributes little to sporting associations already, to apply full duties on uniforms for representatives of national teams.
For a government that suggests that it love sport and young people it is difficult to understand the prevailing attitude in respect of national sport uniforms.
Perhaps the government should consider looking at the sport policies of countries that really do have an interest in sport and who see it as an important vehicle for community and national development.
A few months ago the National Olympic Committee (NOC) was in receipt of some uniforms that were made available by Commonwealth Games Canada (CGC). The latter had been fortunate enough to receive a generous gift of some unused and some used uniforms from one of Canada’s leading football clubs which had changed sponsors.
CGC offered several Caribbean countries the uniforms.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines NOC asked to be in receipt of some of the available uniforms to give away to teams in need in this country. At the time we were of the impression that we only had to pay for the shipping.
It was an amazing twist of fate when the NOC was asked to pay duties on a gift that cost the NOC nothing but the shipping.
The NOC made the payment of duties and proceeded to give away the uniforms as per the agreement with CGC.
One is therefore at a loss to understand why it is then that the NOC was asked to pay duties on these uniforms.
One could agree with the decision to refuse a waiver if the NOC intended to profiteer from the uniforms procured. It can also be agreed if a national association is intent on purchasing uniforms for resale purposes.
One must therefore understand that if the government could ask for duties on the foregoing, then the decision not to grant waiver on national team uniforms can be understood. It makes no sense but at least we can understand what is happening.
It may well be important here to ask whether when ministers of government opt to receive gifts of uniforms for their respective constituencies they have to pay duties on them. If they are exempt from duties then the sporting fraternity need to know why not.
There is really no policy in respect of the funding of national sports associations.
Were it not for the existence of the National Olympic Committee many associations would be in even more dire straights than is currently the case.
Even with NOC funding many associations still have problems meeting their needs, to say nothing of their regional and international commitments.
In many countries there is a national allocation in the annual budget for sport. This is usually divided into what is to be given to national sporting bodies and what to government organisations working in sport.
In some countries like the USA, national sports associations receive no funding from government. They have to go out to the private sector and raise their own funds.
In the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago lead the way in terms of financial support for sport, inclusive of national sports associations.
In the latter case each receives an annual grant from government that covers the expenses for administering the sport inclusive of office, CEO/Administrative Secretary, staff, coaches, competitions at local, regional and international levels.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines funding for sport in like being involved in a game of Russian Roulette. National sports associations are made to operate like beggars.
Associations do not see any mention of assistance to them in the annual budget where the sport in lucky to get more than a paragraph or two, given that it is so important, seemingly more on political platforms than anywhere else.
There is no allocation for associations under the National Sport Council, an organisation that is also deemed to be of such great import that it barely gets enough of an annual allocation to meet its recurrent budget.
The national sports associations are not privy to the annual budget of the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) and therefore have no idea as to what finances, if any, are available to any association in any given year.
Associations are therefore urged to write to the NSC, which has no funds, applying for funding. The NSC then makes a recommendation to the NLA. The NLA then decides what it will do in respect of the request. In other words it does appear that it is often the case that the NSC’s recommendations are of little value to the decisions of the NLA when looking at the funding request which associations are mandated to send to the NSC in the first place.
In the end the association is stymied in planning its annual programme unless its point of departure is an assumption that it is not likely to get any form of government assistance in any given year.
The end result is that all of the national sports associations may well see themselves as being forced into a mendicancy programme where they each take turns at climbing the steps to this or that minister’s office in order to access support for some pittance.
Once more it seems fair to say that there is no national policy regarding sport facilities.
How the decision was made to place the two new playing fields at Park Hill and South Rivers under the NLA is anybody’s guess, unless, of course, one understands the politics of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The national sports associations have little input, if any, in the decisions regarding the playing facilities to be constructed, their location and requirements. In many instances the associations have to work with what they see produced after the politicians have had their say.
The authorities seem not to know that international federations (IF) are constantly making changes to their respective infrastructural requirements and it is the national associations that would usually bring this to their notice.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines it appears that the authorities denigrate the national sports associations to such an extent that they are almost completely left out of the process relative to new facilities and refurbishing of existing ones.
The fact is however that the authorities do not know what is required but, more often than not, presume to do so and this makes for little change.
Vincentians love sport and they expect that somehow our athletes would perform on an equal footing with their regional and international counterparts. They do not want excuses but they also do not spend much time engaged in analysing cause.
For whatever reason Vincentians generally believe that sport is like instant coffee, just add hot water and stir.
The fact is that sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines receives little support from government beyond the empty platitudes emanating from politicians on political platforms.
The interest does not really extend beyond the narrow confines of the political currency
To be gained from touting sport.
Politicians who have absolutely no idea what they are speaking about often raise sport tourism as a viable economic option. That is as far as it goes.
Sport cannot make much progress without the active involvement of the government. However, the government must also understand its limitations and engage associations in the development process.
We have witnessed the way in which our politicians play games with sports associations, seemingly ingratiating themselves on some of them with the ultimate intention of scoring cheap political points.
In St Vincent and the Grenadines today there are not many associations that can claim to have found the government of the day and even hitherto, keenly interested in the sport development process, enough to engender hope for the future.
For the time being therefore, most of our national sports associations are stymied and sport development continues to run on e…..