The feature speaker at the St Vincent and the Grenadines Community College’s sports awards ceremony, Akin John, wants to see greater investments in sports here in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
Speaking at the ceremony held at the college’s Hospitality and Maritime Training Institute at Diamond last Sunday, June 25, John used data to strengthen his stance and position on the matter.
“I want us to appreciate that proper investment in sport must not be considered purely a social support initiative; there are real tangible material rewards for our athletes, business people and the state treasury from a full commitment to sports development.
“Studies including those conducted by the Inter-American Development Bank show that Latin American and Caribbean countries spend a relatively modest 0.1% of their Gross Domestic Product or GDP on sports programme, (whilst )within our context, for countries such as St. Lucia 3% of current GDP represents EC$136 million dollars; in Antigua & Barbuda it amounts to $118 million while for nations such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada that sum is roughly $70 million”, John pointed out.
Zooming in on St Vincent and the Grenadines’ case, John said “ When one considers that right now in SVG for example, the combined sectors of Arts Entertainment & Recreation currently account for EC$22 million of GDP, (therefore) pursuing a targeted increase return from investment in sports alone, represents a significant potential revenue stream for our nation, which can only result in even larger growth”.
Apart from the economic benefits, John also expounded on the health benefits that can accrue from greater investments in sports.
“This does not even take into account the tremendous cost savings and ease of burden on our health care system by having a more active and healthier society,” he reasoned.
However, John acknowledged that a national sports policy is a precursor and must be in tandem for any thrust towards meaningful investment in sports to be viable.
“Every sports administrator that I speak to is in unison that what we require is a collaborative national sports policy designed to provide a framework within which government, the private sector and national sports associations work together to facilitate the creation of strategies and systems which promote the development of sport in SVG,” John continued.
Elucidating his point, John said that we have go beyond the “bricks and mortar”.
“ A key component of any such policy will be the development of playing fields and hard courts but this must be strategically connected to a mission to ensure that all Vincentians have equal access to physical education, recreation and sports, both within the education system and other aspects of social life …. Beyond that, the establishment of a mechanism whereby elite athletes and sports administrators are identified and trained to attain the most elevated of standards in preparation to compete”, he emphasised.
John, a barrister at law who is the manager of Hope International Football Club is an active sportsman, competing in Masters Football competitions. As a teenager, though he was more adept at Cricket.