The stalled “National Sports Academy” initiative is just another example of the financial epidemic that plagues the Progressive Liberal Party Government. The Value Added Tax (VAT) that came on stream two years ago has generated over a billion dollars for the Treasury.
Yet the government still finds itself in embarrassing situations. Independent teachers brought on, have complained about late pay. Vendors at government schools have refused to continue their services because of not being paid.
Contractors solicited by the government have at times ceased work because no installments were forthcoming from the government. This story could go on and on. Caught up in the financial debacle the government finds itself in, are promised sports initiatives, in particular the proposed National Sports Academy.
Three years ago, Prime Minister Perry Christie gave his blessing to Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr. Daniel Johnson and a nucleus of national sports leaders. He actually charged them with the responsibility of developing the National Sports Academy.
PM Christie was serious and gave the clear indication that the way would be clear for the group to go forth with plans for the National Sports Academy. A National Sports Academy Committee was formed and Dr. Johnson provided great leadership for months. He took the committee to Cuba to monitor the expansive sports program there.
A detailed report was subsequently completed and officially handed over. I believe that Dr. Johnson expected the National Sports Academy to be a prominent part of the country’s sports landscape by now. After the committee had done its work, my understanding is that he brought on board Rupert Gardner, specifically to deal with the National Sports Academy structure.
There have been some inroads made. For instance, the Sports Ministry spearheaded a mini academy set-up in Moore’s Island of the Abacos. Pre-fab accommodations were erected to provide dormitories for young athletes who are coached and mentored by Rev. Anthony Williams.
Apparently however, the bottom has dropped out. I have been told that funds are very scarce and Gardiner is opting to move to the University of the Bahamas to work with a sports academy type project at the institution.
However, the National Sports Academy, as explained by Christie and initially envisioned by the Bahamas sports fraternity has not evolved. I don’t think Dr. Johnson can be faulted. It appears, based on my findings, that he did as much as was financially possible.
It is sad that the enthusiasm he brought into the national sports picture will be dashed somewhat by not accomplishing an authentic, full National Sports Academy by the time he moves away from frontline politics in another few months. I haven’t always agreed with Dr. Johnson’s methods as Sports Minister, but there was never any question about the zeal he possessed to revolutionize the government’s relationship with the nation’s sports family.
Dr. Johnson is to be congratulated for his body of work. A comprehensive National Sports Academy would have enhanced his tenure. As fate would have it though, that initiative in a full-blown sense was not to be, under Dr. Johnson’s present watch.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Published Tuesday, February 7, 2017