OPINION: Lack of Sports Policy an indictment on the Government

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Says Treiston Joseph

Before I get to the crux of my idée fixe, let me just take some time to reiterate that moving the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport under the Ministry of Education and compartmentalising it was not a wise idea by this current Administration for a few reasons; the main one being that sport is now a global multi-billion-dollar industry that deserves its own resources and time.

If we are to look at the structure of sport powerhouses within the Caribbean, namely Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and even The Bahamas, one would recognise that none of these nations have sport under the Ministry of Education.

The move in my estimation shows a lack of vision for sport by this current administration. In addition to that, the appointment of Dr. Nicolette Henry as Minister within the Ministry of Education with the responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport furthered by her elevation to Minister of Education, only strengthens my opinion that this government is not serious about sport or its development.

Nevertheless, to the basis of my harangue, which is simply the lack of a Sports Policy. Its absence gives the government scope for unaccountability with regards to the development of sport, as well as the way in which our athletes are treated and rewarded.

The Sports Policy issue has been one that has also plagued the previous administration that lost to the Coalition Government in 2015, but here is the baffling thing; as the incoming government why wait until you enter office to start having drafts of the policies you would like to institute?

While I understand that there is a process to policy making, the government should have had an idea of where they want to take sport especially after witnessing what obtained under the previous administration.

If there was vision for the sport sector by the Coalition Government, then there would be less talk and more action.

There was a situation where Guyana’s 400m record holder, Winston George, paid his own money to travel to the South American Senior Championship and won gold for Guyana and was not repaid his money for representing the Golden Arrowhead.

A Sports Policy would address such an issue with regard to athletes representing their nation and the type of assistance they are given; the government can’t be held accountable for such a debacle because there is no guideline.

The Carifta team did well this year and the entire team was rewarded with scholarships to the University of Guyana, but the South American junior team did just as well so why no scholarships for all 40 of those athletes? The junior squash team had won 12 straight team titles until they lost this year so, how do you reward them for their brilliance?

The rugby team continues to win title after title yet they have to hunt and grunt for funding; Kristian Jeffrey is a Caribbean motor racing champion and what is his reward for wearing Guyana’s flag on his chest?

What if somebody wins Olympic gold for Guyana? What will be done for that athlete? There are no answers to these questions because there is no guide for such situations.

A Sports Policy provides those answers and the way forward for sport. As technology and science advance so does the policy, but this is a situation that the Minister does not seem to understand and apparently the Coalition does not either; sadly, so.

On November 3, 2016 at the launch of the National School Championships, this is what Minister Henry had to say about the Sports Policy: “I have to say the policy will come on stream and when I say on stream I mean be launched hopefully by mid 2017… If you are familiar with policies and I suspect you are, you would recognise that it goes through a process and therefore that process requires engagements with stakeholders and the community and that takes time and that needs to happen before any policy can even be considered as an initial draft and if you have an appreciation for due process you would recognise that speaking from November to mid 2017 is pretty much a short time line for a national policy… so I don’t know that it’s being held up but it requires due process and I don’t see that process coming to an end before mid 2017.”

We are heading into the final quarter of the year with still with no idea as to the development of the Sport Policy; the National School Championships will be launched again and we might hear this very answer at the launching. 

There is a quote by a German Poet, Johann Wolfgang that I hold dearly: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply; willing is not enough, we must do.” 

Whether this Government is ready to “apply” and “do” is still very much up for debate, especially after spending two years in office.

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