The Gonsalves led government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has, since taking office on 1 April 2001, been expected to perform in sport as in other aspects of the economy, in respect of the innovative developmental thrust enunciated in the then manifesto of the Unity Labour Party (ULP).
Perhaps few took notice that the government was actually sworn in on All Fools’ Day in 2001 – a feat that should have served due notice of things to come, especially for our sportspeople. Since then all we have had in the field of sport is talk and plenty of it.
Back then the ULP boasted of having produced a youth manifesto to accompany and complement the overall manifesto of the party. It seemed to have been the intention at the time to fill the youth manifesto with impressive goodies in order to capture the youth vote and little else.
Few of the promises made in respect of sport have been fulfilled and there seems little interest on the part of the ruling regime to improve on its track record in this regard.
In the world of politics leaders have a tendency towards making promises that they cannot keep and often treat the very electorate that put them in office as suddenly so lacking in appreciation for the realities that surround them that they readily accept whatever is fed to them by way of explanation.
This has been repeatedly exemplified by the current leadership in respect of its failure to deliver on its promises to the nation’s sportspeople since taking office in 2001.
Unfortunately the sportspeople seem either immune to the continued shabby treatment they receive on an annual basis or have simply come to accept that politicians lie at will and therefore one should not waste one’s time waiting on promises to be fulfilled.
There seems little interest on the part of the ruling regime to even access appropriate advice in respect of what should or should not be said to the Vincentian sportspeople especially on the campaign trail.
Successive budgets under the ULP administration have revealed the unambiguous truth that there is little or no real commitment to sport in this country. In 2001 we were given the promise and commitment that the football and athletics enthusiasts of this country would have been in receipt of a national stadium that would serve both sports.
Initially we understood clearly that the project could only be realised if overseas funding was secured. This was a clear indication of the government’s lack of commitment to the realisation of the project.
Leaders of both football and athletics were rudely awakened to the reality that the government could not have been serious about the national stadium because of the minimal budgetary allocation from local resources. In other words, there was an unbelievably heavy reliance on funding from Libya, because as far as the government was concerned there was no money at the local level to realise.
Year after year government left Libya as the primary source of funding in spite of the fact that Libya appeared to have resolved its differences with the United States of America and the United Kingdom, in the process virtually turning its back on the commitment given to the OECS countries.
Rather than offer the nation’s footballers and athletics enthusiasts the truth the figures remained in the budget, limited resources were allocated at the local level merely to facilitate the running of an office. It took the members of the Stadium Committee some time before they came to the recognition that they were meeting merely to confirm the Minutes of the previous occasion on which they mate to confirm the Minutes of a previous meeting.
For decades the sporting fraternity engage din indoor sports have been clamouring for a facility that would serve as a home for all of them initially, giving them time to work on each ultimately accessing its own. All that they have received thus far, for almost a decade, has been ole talk, nothing more. In the latter part of 2010, in the promises season of campaign politics they have been told that they would get somewhere in Kingstown. Hopefully they would not salivate on this.
They were also told that the government would move quickly to place a cover over the hard court at the Girls High School, transforming it in the process into an indoor arena. At the same time someone had the brilliant idea to request of the Volleyball Association here that had been promised an indoor Volleyball surface from its regional governing body to respond to the latter asking instead for a multi-purpose floor.
How ludicrous and embarrassing!
Happily the Volleyball Association knew sports protocol and ignored the request.
Rather interestingly, in his introduction to the 2011 budget debate address the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of this country, Hon Ralph Gonsalves, dared to announce to the Honourable House the political trite that the 2011 budget is rooted in the two manifestos of the ULP in its campaign for the 2010 general elections. This came in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s intervention in the House that laid the ULP’s general and youth manifestos as official documents.
The Prime Minister stated:
This Budget is predicated broadly and strategically on the top ten policies and actions which my government intends to pursue over the medium-term, as outlined in the ULP’s Election Manifesto of 2010. These top ten policies and actions are:
- Waging the on-going War against Poverty;
- Wealth Creation and Job Creation;
- Pursuing a many-sided strategy of sustainable economic growth and development including the consolidation of fiscal discipline, balancing prudence and enterprise;
- Extending and deepening the Education Revolution, including a further emphasis on ICT training and the implementation of the one laptop per student policy;
- Making St. Vincent and the Grenadines safer and strengthening law and order;
- Enhancing the Health and Wellness Revolution;
- Uplifting the communities by properly addressing vital areas of concern, including housing, road repairs, sports and cultural facilities;
- Elaborating plans for the building of a new city at Arnos Vale and enhanced access to Kingstown;
- Completing the Argyle International Airport and enhancing connectivity in every way between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the world.
- Delivering good governance all round, in every area of public policy, including those in regional integration and international relations.
A quick perusal of the ten priority areas is sufficient to glean that sport is not in the list. Sport has not been considered worthy of accessing the nation’s priorities. This reality should come as no surprise to anyone following the mode of operation of the current administration over the past years. Indeed the government should be applauded for being so consistent it is failure to recognise the importance of sport in the development of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
In his budget address the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance made no mention of sport under Tourism. This is indicative not only of his lack of understanding for and appreciation of sport tourism, one of the fastest growing sectors in the international economic arena but his government’s failure to accord it any place in the developmental path being pursued by the government of the day.
Perhaps it is because of his foresight in this regard that Ole George found it necessary to pull up stumps and opted to reside in Canada.
Under his presentation on Education during his budget presentation the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance again made no mention of sport. Indeed physical education is also not mentioned. Clearly those preparing the 2011 budget address seemed not to have any appreciation for the twin disciplines of physical education and sport in personal development.
In his presentation on Youth, the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance stated:
During the last general election campaign of December 2010, the ULP issued a Youth Manifesto encompassing central policy stances and programmatic details which touch and concern young persons, including: Job and Wealth Creation; the Making of Young Entrepreneurs; Education, Health and Wellness; Housing and Lands; Sports and Recreation; Telecommunications; Culture and the Arts; Social Security and Protection; and the construction of the Argyle International Airport. Thus, practically every area of public policy impacts on the youth directly, and certainly indirectly.
It should be noted that sport and recreation was virtually squeezed in between the package mentioned above but no more mention was made of it anywhere else in the discussion on Youth.
Amazingly, sport is not mentioned anywhere else in the budget address of the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. There is certainly no mention of sport under the section presented on Health and Wellness and this at a time when there is growing evidence of obesity – something with which the Prime Minister should be very familiar. He it was who advised the CARICOM Minister of the importance of initiating a Wellness Revolution in the region. Clearly there appears to be no place for physical education, sport and recreation in the Wellness Revolution as evidenced by their conspicuous absence in this year’s budget address.
Whatever about the seemingly insignificant sums allocated to sport in the 2011 Estimates it is clear that as far as the Budget Address is concerned it does not deserve any extensive treatment. Indeed, if it can only get mentioned once in the entire presentation then one can understand the low level of appreciation it receives; if one can indeed refer to it as appreciation at all.