Minister of Finance Colm Imbert outlined the Trinidad and Tobago Government’s Budget for 2020-2021 today, as a bid to ‘ensure that our economic recovery is as strong as possible’ and with ‘diversification of the economy [as] our highest priority’.
Sport earned two mentions in Imbert’s 142-page Budget statement, although it was more widely referenced in the 229-page Public Sector Investment Programme.
The government appears to still see its role in the sport industry as primarily to construct and maintain facilities, with the lion’s share of Ministry of Sport’s TT$80.8 million allocation earmarked for the refurbishment or upgrade of stadia, swimming pools and community centres.
“One of the goals of Vision 2030 is to empower the people of Trinidad and Tobago to lead healthy lifestyles,” stated Imbert. “As such, in 2020 the government invested the sum of TT$36.4 million to improve sport and recreation infrastructure under the following projects…”
There will be more of the same in 2021, with Moruga promised a multi-purpose sporting facility, while communities from Point Fortin to Paramin and Bacolet will also benefit from expensive infrastructure or refurbishment.
“The strategic objectives of the National Sport Policy are geared towards achieving total participation and excellence in sport,” stated the Public Sector Investment Programme. “To achieve these objectives the Ministry [of Sport] aims to provide facilities for the growth and development of sport throughout Trinidad and Tobago…”
Improvement and expansion works at the Emperor Valley Zoo, rehabilitation of facilities at the Botanic Gardens, and an upgrade of the Caroni Bird Sanctuary Visitor Centre, also came under ‘Development of Recreational Facilities’ within Sport’s allocation.
There was TT$500,000 budgeted too for the ‘development of a master plan for sport and youth facilities’.
“The plan will provide the [Ministry of Sport and Cultural Development] with the necessary protocols and tools,” it read, “to analyse the status of its infrastructure, anticipate and prevent possible defects, repair damages early and maintain the general functionality and extend the life of its facilities.”
Imbert, in his Budget statement, listed sport among a stream of industries ‘earmarked to achieve that objective [of diversification]’.
“For immediate action and with diversification and productivity improvements at the forefront,” stated Imbert, “we are targeting in collaboration with the domestic and international private sector: manufacturing, in particular for exports; energy services for export; aluminium, steel and chemicals; construction; housing; environmentally-friendly and green technology; recycling; technology, in particular software, mobile applications, electronic transactions and cyber security; creative and cultural industries, in particular, music, film, art and theatre; agriculture, financial and other services; ship building and ship repair; tourism, including medical, sports and leisure events; and food and beverages.”
The aforementioned industries, he said, are due ‘fiscal incentives’, while the government promised to continue ‘to remove impediments to the ease of doing business in important dimensions of the regulatory environment as it applies to local firms’.
He did not give specific examples of the ‘impediments’ targeted by his government in the sport industry, or how sport would benefit the economy—apart from healthier citizens.
Among the government’s recent achievements, Imbert listed the completion of the Brian Lara Recreation Ground in Santa Cruz and ‘the world-class Diego Martin Sporting Complex’.
He said the latter facility is being utilised by footballers and cricketers, while the Brian Lara ground ‘will contribute significantly to the continued development of our footballers and cricketers residing in the Santa Cruz Valley and the surrounding areas’.
But how will Trinidad and Tobago nurture another sporting giant like Brian Lara?
“[The] government recognises that sport and recreation can benefit both the nation’s economy and the health of our citizens,” stated Imbert. “In order to encourage communities to engage in sports and recreational activities, and to attract business and investments from international sporting organisations, government will seek to create an enabling environment to ensure that modernised, well maintained, fully functioning facilities are available and accessible.
“In this regard, the Ministry of Sport and Community Development (MSCD) in discharging its responsibilities is guided by the National Policy on Sport (2017-2027), which seeks to adopt and embody a holistic and multi-sectoral approach to sport development.
“The policy aligns itself to the national development framework, as well as the requirements of the national sport fraternity which emphasises the creation of an enabling environment for sport and athletic excellence through world class training and facilities.”
It is debatable whether ‘new facilities’ ranks among the top three priorities of any sport body capable of earning revenue in this field.
The major beneficiaries of the government’s 2021 budget are:
• Education and Training TT$7.973 billion
• Health TT$6.050 billion
• National Security TT$5.227 billion
• Works and Transport TT$2.956 billion
• Public Utilities TT$2.091 billion
• Rural Development and Local Government TT$1.642 billion
• Agriculture TT$1.198 billion
• Housing TT$1.000 billion