Government’s allocation of just over $325 million to sports came as a surprise to many, yet appreciated generally by the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) yesterday.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, in his budget presentation said the budget was predicated on an oil price of US$48 per barrel and a gas price of 2.25 mmbtu which largely is expected to earn a revenue of $47.4 billion and an expenditure of US$53.4 billion.
Sports’ total of $325,376,377, to be shared among the various sporting organisations was a sign for more to be done with less said T&T Olympic Committee president Brian Lewis, while Ephraim Serrette, the National Association of Athletic Administration (NAAAs) boss, has called for sports and its importance to be recognised more by governments in the future.
In his presentation which lasted for more than three hours, Imbert said his government is well in advance of a National Sports Policy that will drive sports forward in the coming months.
He boasted of the opening of the three new state-of-the-art sporting facilities and the upgrade and construction works being done to multi-purpose facilities in Diego Martin and Moruga, as well as work on the controversial Brian Lara Stadium in Torouba.
Imbert, who could not resist pointing out the wastage by the previous People’s Partnership Government, also made it clear his government will be putting in place a business model that will help in the management and maintenance of the various facilities.
Lewis said while he expected a larger cut for sports, NGBs have now to realise the contribution it must make to the overall sacrifice of the economy by mass producing with little resources.
He believes government’s decision to re-start construction works on the Brian Lara Stadium, the multi-purpose facilities and other facilities, is a bold attempt to stimulate the economy by creating jobs through construction which will assist in ensuring that money is circulated.
He embraced the business model to come into effect soon, noting it would have been good to see programmes to encourage sports entrepreneurship, which sports and the country, could benefit from.
Lewis called for reform in the constitutions of the different NGBs which he believes will ensure better running of the sport as welll as make sure they stay within the parameters of good governance and best practice. “Sports organisations need to have AGM when they are due and submit audited accounts which will help in ensuring transparency and accountability.”
Meanwhile, Serrette, while admitting he needs to look at the fine prints of the budget document when he gets it, lamented the silence by Imbert in informing the public of tax rebate that exists for sports. He explained the tax rebate which carries a figure of 150 percent return for companies and private citizens investing in sporting organisation and entities, will be a tremendous help to sports, particularly in the grim economic period.
He also called on government to use sports as an income-generating measure, saying successive governments have not understood the benefits that can be arrived from it.
Minister of Sports Darryl Smith said there will be changes in sports, including the Elite Athletes Funding Programme, a decision that stemmed from the recent review of the Rio Olympic performance.
He also promised that innovative ways for NGBs to generate revenue from the new sporting facilities will be done through the Sport Company of T&T and they will work with the T&T Pro League to upgrade community facilities to give clubs the opportunity to be self sufficient.