Government's allocation to sports in yesterday's national budget has been welcomed by a number of National Sporting Organisations (NSOs).
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert delivered a $63 billion dollar budget at Tower D of the Waterfront in the midst of severe financial depression caused by the fallen oil and gas prices. However he revealed that his government will implement programmes and policies that will encourage all to take part in sports as a recreation; implement policies to see the emergence of more world champion athletes and ensure they gain international recognition; foster development of sports at schools and encourage competition; establishment of facilities to meet world standards; develop a sport brand for T&T and establish a Sport Institute that will lead among others.
Among those embracing the sports allocation were Olympic president Brian Lewis, cycling head Robert Farrier and Dr Allen Sammy, executive member of the T&T Cricket Board (TTCB) who all welcomed the government's plan.
Farrier said the plan shows that government has made sports a priority. He explained these initiatives will lead to building of stronger communities and the promotion of athletes to international world class standards. "Policies in sports always tend to ensure that there is integrity and fairness in the processes," Farrier said.
He is hoping his organization gets a whopping $12 million which he said is needed ahead of an Olympic year. The TTCF in their last budget received $1.4 million which was 20 percent of the amount they had applied for. According to Farrier his association is aware that government cannot do everything for NSOs but he said it is now critical for government to assist in areas of marketing and strategic planning which would help them achieve objectives and targets.
Lewis was happy to see the introduction of programmes at schools, saying this was started back in 2010 at the University of T&T (UTT) under the same PNM government. "It is a major plus anytime you improve the quality of educators in Physical Education and the TTOC will support this fully," Lewis said.
He added there seems to be a focus on building capacity in sports especially at a time when sacrifices have to be made. In the face of a budget which was pegged at US$40 per barrel instead of US$80 in previous years, Lewis said the time for limiting sports must come to an end as he has always envisioned sports making a great impact on the national economy through sports tourism.
He explained also that sports will help with social ills and is also a means of enhancing the human resources in countries. "In spite of the economic challenges we will not see sports go down as there are so many areas to make a great impact on the nation. In fact we at the TTOC still hold firm to TT achieving 10 or more gold medals at the Rio Olympic Games next year," Lewis said.
Dr Sammy said it is good that government has not diverted from the focus on elite athletes and the development of human resources as a whole.
"When a nation is in crisis the first area they sacrifice is sports, so I look forward to this not happening over the five-year term," Sammy said.