The New Democratic Party (NDP) congratulates our athletes on their performance in the recently held Carifta Games in Jamaica. They performed well. It demonstrates that we have talent. And, if the proper sports policies and programmes are implemented, our athletes can excel to the highest level. The Unity Labour Party (ULP) government has failed our athletes. The New Democratic Party (NDP) has a vision for sports development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is obvious that the ULP government lacks a proper vision for sports development. This is evident in the steady deterioration of playing facilities across the length and breadth of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the fading of interest in various form of organized sporting events. We were regionally and world rated in football and in netball.
We were sending track and field athletes out in increasing numbers on athletic scholarships and to international competitions. Since the ULP gained power, our standing has declined drastically, as a result of neglect and lack of a proper vision for sports development.
The government has paid lip service to sports development over the years. They were forced to commence an athletics track leading up to the last general elections because the NDP stated in its manifestos since the 2001 general elections, that it would construct a national stadium. The athletes are still waiting.
The government continues to boast that there are forty-two (42) playing fields and fifty-eight (58) hard courts available to the citizens of this country. The truth is, most of these playing fields are not utilized by the communities in which they are located. Permission for use of the playing fields has to be sought from authorities stationed outside the communities.
They are locked up from the communities, and they are not lighted so they cannot be used after regular working hours. For instance, the hardcourt in San Souci was completed by this government in 2019, after construction started under the former NDP administration. It was officially opened for the 2020 general elections. Today, it remains closed. Is this a government that is serious about sports development?
Our Sports Development programme
The experts have all agreed that youth who play sports have higher self-esteem, stronger connections with their schools, better peer relationships, and fewer behavioural problems. The discipline and training needed to participate in sports will help to develop successful adults. Athletes learn the importance of teamwork and to follow leadership. The NDP has recognized this fact and has pledged that sports has a place of prominence on the development agenda.
Our mission is to facilitate the emergence of a culture of sports through the elevation of sports as a significant pillar of national development in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We appreciate the importance of sports to our youth, athletes, our people and our country, and we further recognize that early achievements in sports as a means for our young people to achieve higher education and better livelihoods.
The youth of St. Vincent and the Grenadines will benefit immensely from our impressive sports programme, to include a diversified scholarship portfolio that will open opportunities for college and university education. And, most importantly, we will ensure that meaningful employment is created for these youths after they have completed their studies.
The NDP will implement a number of policies and programmes that will aid in the development of sports. We will reorganize the National Sport Council and review the National Sports Policy. The National Sport Council has become something of a political football much to the detriment of the national sport development process.
In addition, it has been narrowly focused on cricket in recent years. The NDP will convene a special committee to redesign and redevelop the organization and diversify its focus, and whatever the result, ensure that it is managed by appropriately qualified personnel who will lead and work in the interest of all stakeholders.
Also, we will implement a Service, Opportunity and Support framework, which will ensure that sporting facilities are upgraded to accommodate the respective sporting disciplines. Community Sport Councils must be developed and sustained, to take ownership of the maintenance of the established facilities and support the programmes for physical activity and sport in their respective communities.
In addition, we will develop at least one playing field in each constituency to the extent that it can accommodate competition at the regionally level. These facilities will be fully lit and will have changing facilities. Where appropriate, particularly in areas where grass does not grow properly, playing surfaces will be converted to artificial surfaces.
Some of the other areas of development that the NDP will focus on include: the construction of a national indoor sports complex, floored so as to accommodate sports such as basketball, volleyball, netball, tennis and squash; implementation of a structure that ensures a proper foundation for the development of elite athletes; and construct a National Aquatic Centre to attract national, regional and international competitions.
The NDP is committed to the development of sports and young people. We will do all that we can to develop and promote more sporting activities that will benefit our athletes. This will have the added benefit of providing careers in various sports, example, basketball and cricket. The athletes of this country can rest assured that there is a brighter future for them with the NDP. The NDP is about creating a brighter future for the athletes of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.