Wed | Apr 1, 2020

Dalton Myers | The stage is yours, Minister Grange

Published:Saturday | March 23, 2019 | 12:10 AM

The 2019 Budget Debate was interesting and will be discussed for a while. While the decisions are still being fleshed out, I want to focus on the sectoral debates, especially the presentation to be made by Minister of Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange.

Sectoral Debates can be very long, difficult to follow, and at times very boring. However, the sports minster’s speech should give us an indication of what has been accomplished over the past financial year and her plans for at least the next 12 months.

In reviewing the minister’s 2018/2019 presentation, I was very happy to hear her lauding our athletes and administrators, but more importantly she focused on some key areas for the sporting industry.

These included :

- Improving Sports Infrastructure

- Addressing child abuse in sports

- Sport tourism

- Sport for development and peace

- Sport infrastructure access for teams

- Sport diplomacy (especially with the People’s Republic of China).

I know that she has made significant steps to address some of these areas. However, the challenge is providing continuous progress reports so stakeholders can better understand the progress we have made. The setting up of a task force and development of a policy direction on sports and child abuse is important. My hope is that we will soon hear of the progress in implementing this policy as well as the setting up of the national sport museum.

I think the minister has done a commendable job especially in light of the fact that she holds a large ministry, and available government central funding is way below what would be expected for a significant impact. Additionally, I am happy with her responses to several issues that have arisen such as athletes’ assistance.

Additionally, she has taken on issues such as Caribbean Premier League and funding as well as the challenges facing Cricket West Indies and past discrimination in sports.

For the 2019-2020 Sectoral Debate, I am sure the minister will report on matters she indicated would be priority. Additionally, I want to make a few recommendations:

- I hope to hear about more policy initiatives coming out of the Ministry. We have various issues that need to be researched and address by policy.

Since the Anti-doping Act 2014, Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act, and the Sports Policy, we have not seen any real push to create policy frameworks for sports, such as the impact of sports and recreation on children, social impact of participation in sports and culture, and issues of accessibility for athletes with disabilities who are training to compete for the nation.

- The minister might use the debate or suggest a town-hall meeting or other public fora to engage us on other issues such as Government’s return on investment for various investments made in major sporting facilities. This would help us understand the focus, future plans, as well as our own direct and indirect contribution to these projects and responsibilities.

- I also hope we can get a better idea of the research that is going into our sporting product and the nature of collaborations being done with tertiary institutions as was previously done with matters like the National Sports Policy.

I hope that the minister will indicate how we measure return on investment through guided research and how this will be used to help us with future decisions.

- I hope there is considerations for more public-awareness projects. Maybe we could look at a month for athletes with disabilities or a just a day/month focused on physical education in Jamaica.

The ministry is likely to be doing way more than we know of, but such often doesn’t trickle to the general public.

I am hoping that this time around, the presentation will be broadened to speak directly to results from ongoing projects, as well as place more focus on policy framework that will be established or implemented to continue building sport in Jamaica.

There are various stakeholders in sports, and while some national sporting associations can be difficult, I am sure that the Government will implement policies and guidelines to strengthen these associations, better equipping them to govern sports locally. So I look forward to the minister’s presentation in a few weeks’ time.

I hope she will find some of these recommendations useful as we seek to change the game and restructure sports and build ‘Brand Jamaica’.

Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to daltonsmyers@gmail.com or tweet @daltonsmyers