Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
The severe economic downturn gripping the country has many Jamaicans in a frenzy, scraping for funds in every crevice and corner of the country, and the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund appears to be picking up a large part of the slack.
CHASE Fund chief executive officer W. Billy Heaven told The Gleaner yesterday that in recent times, he had seen a greater demand from individuals and entities turning to the fund for a financial lifeline.
Heaven said this is believed to be a spin-off of the ailing economy.
"We have found ourselves having to be satisfying an insatiable demand for the fund, which has really increased, not necessarily from those institutions or those persons that we have been supporting, but from new institutions and different groups," he said. "This would suggest to me that the source of funding that they had before may have dried up, so they are looking for alternative sources of funding."
While unable to furnish the names of entities that have come forward requesting funding, Heaven said along with the "new" institutions that have come forward, he has seen "individuals who are studying and seeking scholarships and persons seeking to offset medical expenses".
"There is an increased demand to build additional infrastructure, training, nutrition. These areas are showing significant increases in the demand to support them," he said.
"(These individuals and entities) would have had other opportunities and other sources, and I would speculate that those sources may not be available to them, or have been reduced, and it pushes up the demand for our fund."
Heaven said that since the fund was established in 2002, and brought into operation in 2003, it has received some $9.3 billion from betting and gaming entities, of which 80 per cent has been disbursed.
While the demand for the fund to fork out more money continues to climb, Heaven said it has been coping well in the unfavourable economic climate.
"We have seen an increase in the funds to CHASE. Some research suggests that it is a normal thing to happen when an economy is not vibrant. The research that I have looked at (suggests) that people, perhaps, rely on it (betting and gaming) either for entertainment, or to provide an income stream."
Provisions in the Betting Gamings and Lotteries Act mandate betting and gaming companies to turn over a portion of their earnings to the fund.
"We are satisfied that in times like these when an economy is down, the industry tends to do better," Heaven said.
"Per month, we are over $100 million. In the month that we got the Super Lotto unclaimed prize, that took us over $200 million in one month."
The unclaimed Super Lotto prize led to a $71 million injection into the fund. The injection was in keeping with Supreme Ventures Limited policy which mandates that 50 per cent of unclaimed prizes be turned over to the fund while the remainder goes back into gaming and promotions.
In the meantime, Heaven said it is projected that the fund will take in some $1.4 billion this year.
CHASE Fund allocations