By Robertson S. Henry
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — In the new fiscal year, and the one ushering in a new decade, sports is expected to receive renewed attention. This was indicated by St Vincent and the Grenadines minister of finance Camillo Gonsalves, during the presentation of Budget 2020.
“In a youthful, developing country like St Vincent and the Grenadines, it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of sports. Sport builds health, skill, discipline, teamwork, communities and national pride. Sport is entertainment,” stated minister Gonsalves. “Sport is tourism. Sport is a social magnet. Sport is a productive outlet for youthful energy. Sport is an opportunity – for education, travel, employment, and, a rewarding career. The development of sports and the development of a people-centered society are objectives that are inextricably interwoven. It is impossible for either objective to advance independently,” he said.
The finance minister informed the nation that during this year, there will be multiple investments in sports development across St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“Through the efforts of the central government and the National Lotteries Authority, multiple sporting facilities will be constructed. This year, new hard courts, playing fields and multi-purpose facilities will be opened in Choppins, Evesham, Rose Hall, Sans Souci, and West Kingstown, while significant rehabilitative work will take place at venues in Clare Valley and Rose Bank,” Gonsalves stated.
Additionally, during his budget 2020 presentation, finance minister Gonsalves informed St Vincent and the Grenadines House of Assembly that “the Calliaqua Playing Field received a state-of-the-art upgrade to its lighting fixtures, significantly enhancing its capacity to host night-time sporting events.
“The National Lotteries Authority will supervise minor rehabilitative work on several other facilities nationwide. The government is building sports from the ground up, community-by-community, one facility at a time.”
In the 2019 budget presentation, the finance minister did state that “we hope to conclude negotiations this year for the necessary funding to construct an athletic track for our long-suffering runners, with a 2020 target date for the start of construction.”
However, according to finance minister Gonsalves during his budget 2020 presentation on Monday, February 03, 2020, said:
“The government got an early start on this pledge, commencing construction in December 2019. The athletic track, being installed by an internationally-recognized German company, is part of an exciting $4 million project that represents the latest step in our progress towards a dedicated football and track and field facility.
“By mid-2020, the full-sized, top quality athletic track will be installed, and the football field will be grassed. Other ancillary facilities and amenities, including temporary bleachers, washrooms, a separate warm-up field, and parking areas, will also be completed in 2020.”
Among the track and field community, the enthusiasm and anticipation for this long-awaited project is palpable. Notwithstanding, while the year 2020 will not see the delivery of the full-fledged track and field stadium that remains an objective of the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, “this year will be remembered by the sporting community as the year that we took a momentous step in that direction, and provided our athletes with a practice and competition surface that – outside of the Olympics or the World Championships – is as good as or better than any other such surface in the world.”
Budget 2020 also allocates significant resources for the upgrade of the Arnos Vale Sporting Complex, the premier cricketing facility of St Vincent and the Grenadines. These expected upgrades include general repairs to all stands at the ground and the installation of a state-of-the-art electronic scoreboard.
After a lengthy absence from the hosting of senior men’s international cricket – an absence that coincidentally coincided with the tenure of certain regional cricketing executives, the Arnos Vale Cricket Ground is slated to host back-to-back Twenty20 Internationals between the West Indies and Australia in mid-2021. The finance minister added that: “We have no doubt that we will remind fans globally, that Arnos Vale is one of the most picturesque and alluring venues in the world to enjoy a game of cricket.”
The Vincentian finance minister went on to inform members of parliament gathering of the Sport Against Crime programme which was launched in 2019. “This government believes that the link between sporting development and crime prevention is real. At-risk, misguided or idle hands are better occupied holding a bat or a ball, than a gun. Community rivalries are better settled on a netball court or football field than on the streets. Pent-up energy is better spent running to the goal than running from the law.
“As such, the Sport Against Crime programme, launched in 2019, will expand its reach and activities in 2020. This collaboration between the Ministries of Sport and National Security is a major part of this Government’s plan to improve the safety, security, health, and unity among our citizens.”
Minister Gonsalves concluded his budget 2020 presentation on sports programme for the coming fiscal year, stated: “Along with the rehabilitation of sporting facilities in communities across the country, the Sports Against Crime programme is the vehicle that will bring novel and exciting sporting activities to the villages and towns of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”