Dalton Myers | Caribbean region lags behind in sport spending, activity level
The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has strongly criticised the Latin American and Caribbean region's (LAC) investment in sport in its latest report, entitled Sport for Development. While the report underscores the positive impact of sport and physical activity in developing the region, it suggests that we are far behind in investing in sports.
It acknowledges physical inactivity as a worldwide problem. However, the LAC is considered "among the worst". This is primarily evident in the "poor and more unequal countries and the poor and less educated populations within countries". Of interest is that like many aspects of sport, there is a gender gap as women exercise less than men in the region, and "inactivity levels by young and school-aged kids are particularly troubling".
There are two main conclusions from the assessment of the report:
1. The region is the worst as it relates to participation in physical activity.
2. The economic impact of sport is in significant because of insufficient investment.
The report defines adequate physical activity as no less than 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. It then argues that one in three adults in the LAC is physically inactive compared to the global statistics of one in four. While there are no recorded numbers for Jamaica in the report for spending on sport,
it does suggest that the prevalence of physical inactivity in adults locally is at 28.1 per cent (better than our Caribbean neighbours - Bahamas, 43 per cent; Trinidad and Tobago, 41.7 per cent; Grenada, 30.2 per cent - but falling short of the global figure of 23.3 per cent).
As it relates to spending, the LAC's public (government) spending is quite low and is a mere 0.1 per cent of GDP of 17 countries studied. Notably, this is approximately one third of the percentage spent by European countries. While there is no indication of which countries' data are included, it is clear that Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean are falling short on investing in sport.
Inefficient fund requests
What bothers me the most is that the IDB strongly suggests that a major reason for inadequate funding is inefficiency within our region as it relates to requesting funding and the requisite evaluation measures. The report suggests that we need to design better projects; improve data-collection methods; establish rigorous assessments and evaluations, particularly behavioural economic tools; and provide evidence-based reporting on the impact the funds can have on social and economic development (and urban infrastructure).
However, I also believe there are gaps in the report as it relates to the Caribbean that must be considered. It does not take into account funding through the Olympic Programme and other special funding for athletes. This is important as many Caribbean countries depend heavily on funding from national Olympic committees or athlete-development programmes from international governing bodies like the IAAF.
I am not sure how the funding from entities like Jamaica's Sports Development Foundation (SDF) would be treated since they can straddle lines of both public and private funding (for example, taxes on lotteries, donations). The report could also benefit from acknowledging the economic realities of the region that could potentially prevent the member states from investing significant resources in sport and physical activities, including tight fiscal and monetary policies emanating from load agreements from funding bodies like the International Monetary Fund.
Additionally, the fact that the data for the report relied heavily on self-reporting presents a further challenge in ascertaining the true position of most Caribbean territories. It is often difficult to get statistics on Jamaica's investment in sport because several of our programmes' evaluation processes are inadequate. Some investments are also captured in other industries such as tourism and manufacturing, as well as social-intervention/social-work programmes as we struggle to establish a well-articulated sporting industry.
My own view is that the report is important for us and crucial in how we move forward. I hope that we can study it and work closely with the IDB to secure more funding to invest in sport. The IDB is very clear in its message to the region. I fully agree that by investing in sport, we not only gain from its positive attributes, but also improve our country as a whole.
- Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to email@example.com