On the chopping block
In an attempt to rebound a failing economy, the Minnis Administration has chosen to pursue fiscal austerity measures - that is it is implementing budget cuts in hopes of decreasing the amount of money it will need to borrow.
Among the areas to hit Finance Minister Peter Turnquest’s chopping block is the Ministry of Youth, Sports & Culture - at a significant 21% decline in funding. With a reduction of a little over $5 million, the Ministry now has just $19 million to play with - and share between three very important sectors to the country’s overall development and growth.
Sporting and cultural initiatives - many of them involving Bahamian youth - have in recent times spawned beneficial opportunities for The Bahamas and its economy both locally and abroad, but the government has seemingly found them to be a less important aspect of the country’s priorities.
A number of local sporting community leaders have expressed their despair over Turnquest’s cut for programme financing, particularly because it adversely affects the nation’s youth and aspiring athletes, but also those already making a name for themselves.
Freedom Farm Baseball League founder Greg Burrows was one of them. He said this isn’t the first time this very important Ministry has been targeted by budget cuts, and added , that Bahamians can clearly see “this government’s compassion and vision for our youth on display.” He was being sarcastic.
He further stated, “At a time when innovative business ideas are needed to move this country forward, this government saw fit to withdraw its support – killing hopes, killing dreams, killing the future and hurting the economy.”
Some of the most notable sporting areas affected include the Bahamas Olympic Committee - in an Olympic year - going from $50,000 in 2019 to $40,000, and elite athlete subvention went from $1,346,150 for 2019-2020 to $1,076,920.
The Bahamas Anti-Doping Commission (BADC) went from a budget of $332,500 to $266,000 and The National Sports Authority (NSA), the major arm of the Government of The Bahamas in charge of the maintenance and upkeep of national sporting facilities, went from $3.2 million to $2,280,000.
Burrows questions: at what cost were these cuts made? Sports especially, he said, brings a significant amount of tourists to The Bahamas annually and has afforded Bahamian youth the chance to further their education and gain employment in their respective fields.
“More than three million dollars that were once used to uplift, inspire, and build our children, the future of The Bahamas were unceremoniously slashed from the budget for youth initiatives in the name of fiscal responsibility, austerity and fiscal discipline.”
“There is an urgent need to do more, not less, for our youth if we are to properly prepare them to confidently and competently receive the baton of leader of this country to continue its sustained growth and development. Essentially, this necessary preparation was one of the principal reasons for the establishment of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture,” he said, noting that the self-starter programmes suffered the biggest cuts.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Lanisha Rolle has said publicly that despite the deductions, funding for the programmes won’t be adversely impacted because the cut doesn’t go beyond what the Ministry usually spends. This is indeed a revelation since all three sectors - Youth, Sports and Culture - have for years, under successive leadership, cried that more focus and funding is needed in order to operate more effectively.
One must wonder, why the extra - that can so easily be slashed with no impact to existing expenditure - was not used?