There has been much talk recently about the establishment of an Antigua & Barbuda sports village next to the Sir Vivian Richards stadium at North Sound. Not surprising, we suppose, with the Olympic Games very much in the news.
The announcement, made by Senator Winston Williams, Minister of Sports, indicated that a deal had been struck between an unnamed investment group and the government of Antigua & Barbuda through the Ministry.
According to media reports, Senator Williams said that “the Cabinet of Antigua & Barbuda had just advised the Ministry of Sports that they can proceed to sign a memorandum of understanding with the investors of the Antigua & Barbuda sports village and that is to begin the process of getting ready to construct this facility on lands surrounding the Sir Vivian Richards cricket stadium; and that has another six to eight months for them to respond back to Cabinet a full financial plan as to how we are going to move forward as it relates to the construction of that new village.”
Most readers would probably not look past the literal statements of our politicians. However, we would be neglecting our watchdog status here at OBSERVER Media if we did not dig deeper to ascertain exactly what the minister was promising.
Applying the journalistic standards of asking who, what, where, when, why, the minister’s announcement leaves important questions unanswered. It was clear enough on the “what?” – a sports village would be built and would include an IAAF competition track, practice and competition facilities for football, tennis courts, both an indoor competition facility and outdoor courts (both grass and clay). All top rated facilities constructed to international standards.
According to the minister, “we are also looking at swimming, diving, an Olympic size pool. We are looking at cycling, netball (indoor and outdoor) and basketball; so it’s a complete sports village.”
The “where?” in the announcement was also quite straight forward. The facility would be built next to the Sir Vivian Richards cricket grounds.
“When?” was a little more problematic. Apparently the parties were just weeks away from signing on the dotted line. Then there would be another six to eight weeks of legwork as Cabinet awaits a financial plan as to how the project would proceed.
“Why?” the project is being planned is to “be able to host CARIFTA and other tournaments that are happening regionally, sub-regionally, and internationally.”
This brings us to the all important “who?” Who are these investors that are going to plunk down millions of dollars to build this elaborate facility on an island of less than 100,000 people? Are these investors from Europe or North America or are they home-grown millionaires? What are the names of the principals involved and what is in it for them?
We do not wish to throw cold water on Minister Williams’ obvious enthusiasm for a project he seems proud of. It is the kind of bold initiative that is lacking in our leaders’ thinking but it appears to us, in its present form, to be more of a politician’s promise than a real project capable of accomplishment.
It is a pity that our politicians are still in the analogue age when the population has moved on to digital technology. By this we mean that the speed and efficiency of modern communications has left our politicians groping around with old strategies that used to satisfy a gullible public.
Whether or not Minister Williams sees his vastly premature announcement as a reassurance to the public that he is doing a good job or that he is genuinely convinced of the viability of this project we are willing to bet that the majority of readers would like answers to the same questions we have asked here.
Until our government takes the public into its confidence and discusses the issues with openness and transparency it is going to be ridiculed by the voters.
We need to get away from the model where the government imposes projects or solutions to problems on the people without even making an attempt to convince the taxpayers that it is the right thing to do.
We think the sports village concept has promise but we would have expected more substance from the minister.
The last thing we need now is another two per cent tacked on to ABST to pay for an aborted white elephant right next to our showplace cricket stadium.