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Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Olivia Grange, has informed of plans to further develop the sports industry, and called on the private sector to support this move.
“Some of the big plans for the industry, here in Jamaica, include: the Caymanas Estate mega-sport development facility, to be undertaken by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC); a Sport-knowledge Park and Caribbean Hall of Fame, to strengthen Jamaica’s leadership position in the growing Caribbean and Latin American sport and cultural industries; the Faculty of Sport, which will emerge from the University of Technology (UTech); and the GC Foster College and the Montego Bay Community College axis,” Minister Grange said.
She was addressing the International Congress on Sports for Peace and Development, on September 15, at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.
“It is our expectation, that the private sector will regard the projection of sport as making good business sense, and join with the Government in the development of this industry. And our success in Beijing, in fact, has generated a lot of interest from the private sector, and there are companies now lining up to have their brand identified with the successes,” the Minister said.
She noted that studies indicate that in 2005, sports accounted for approximately 2.6 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and guaranteed approximately 2.2 per cent of jobs. “Employment in this sector is of the order of 22,474 persons and wage contributions exceed $4.3 billion. Many millions of dollars are also spent on sports sponsorship and advertising. Sports generate substantial revenues to Government and provide more through indirect taxes,” she pointed out.
Miss Grange informed further, that the country’s elite athletes, generate as much as US$44.5 million of direct foreign exchange earnings annually. She noted, however, that this estimate would have been arrived at before the Beijing Olympics. “The successes there, will, of course, have boosted the earning potential considerably,” she noted.
Miss Grange also informed that the Ministry is in the process of developing a dynamic and effective sport policy for Jamaica, “and we are hoping that along with our CARICOM brothers and sisters, we’ll be able to really consolidate and come up with a policy and a direction that will drive the development of sports in the Caribbean. We believe that sports have the potential to be one of Jamaica’s leading industries, and this is the potential that we want to exploit.”
“The National Sports Industry policy, which we are formulating, seeks to position local sport to become a part of the international sport industry. The aim is that sport should represent 5.4 per cent of GDP by 2030,” Miss Grange said.
The Minister said she would be seeking to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with the Ministry of Education, “in that sports in school will also become a part of the comprehensive sports policy that will come out of the Ministry of Sports, so that we can partner and we can assist each other, in ensuring that all our young people benefit from the programmes that are in both Ministries, so that they can maximise their potential.”
She also cited plans to establish community sports programmes in all of the 780 communities across Jamaica. “We’re going to ensure that the infrastructure is in place. We don’t have to have sophisticated facilities in every community, but we must provide the basic needs facilities, where we can encourage physical education, sporting activities, cultural activities, and recreation,” she said.
Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Dr. Omar Davies, in his contribution, noted that sponsorship of competitions and programmes in low income communities, is not seen by many corporate entities as the most efficient use of scarce financial resources, given the low purchasing power of the resident population. “What needs to be recognised by both privileged individuals and corporate heads, is that this investment of time and money may be the most cost effective method of promoting the social peace and cohesion, which we all desire for our country,” he pointed out.
Former Olympian, and President of the Jamaica Intercollegiate Sports Association, Grace Jackson-Small, in her remarks, said that sports had the potential to bridge social, religious, ethnic, and gender divides.
“I think sports really has the capacity to break those barriers and those lines and just hit down those hurdles and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) has really been using that vehicle, sports, to empower communities and to use sports as a tool that they can learn, and from which they can gain experience and develop as community organisers as well,” she said.
This Congress, which ends today (September 16), follows the Symposium of Experts, held by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), in November 2007. Coming out of this Symposium, a Policy Paper was drafted, as participants felt it important to establish a strategy for sports and physical education. It is expected that the paper will be expanded through the new ideas that will be put forward at the Congress.
The participants included dignitaries, stakeholders, experts, and authorities from the local, regional, and international sporting fraternity.