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WHAT MATTERS MOST – Serious sports

Clyde Mascoll

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THERE IS an abundance of football talent in Brazil but the country has lost its philosophy of samba football in exchange for the pragmatic style – the exclusion of Ronaldinho, who epitomises Brazilian football, from the squad was indicative of the change.
There is little cricket talent in the West Indies and the board changed its philosophy/mind and gave into Brian Lara’s request to appoint Chris Gayle as captain.
In Jamaica, there is not only talent in athletics but the country has adopted its own home-grown philosophy without having to send the athletes north.  
The notion that sports is for those who could not succeed in academics is widely held by short-sighted societies. But it must be obvious, even to those without sight, that to succeed in sports requires as much mental ability as it does physical ability.
The greats of West Indies cricket were all brilliant mental specimen! Over time, like Brazil in football, a philosophy evolved in West Indies cricket.
There is definitely an element of tradition in successful societies which ultimately forms part of the societies’ way of life or more academically part of their philosophy.
To bridge the perceived gap between sports and serious endeavours, I am suggesting that in our short 44 years of self-governance, a philosophy of managing the Barbados economy evolved.
The philosophy started with Errol Barrow and with very few exceptions was carried on, until a major change for the bad took place in 2008.
Barbados has always fought above its weight class and has been highly successful at doing so. The philosophy which was grounded in the socialist economic teaching which Barrow received at the London School of Economics, was simply generate surpluses on government’s current account to help with infrastructural development. In common sense language, it means live within your means! Alternatively, if you have mauby pockets do not have champagne taste.
In an effort to satisfy its lofty promises in the 2008 campaign, the current Government abandoned the country’s fiscal philosophy and has put the country in an unenviable position for at least the next five years.
The condition is independent of the consequences of the current economic recession.
It is typical for Barbados to have to grapple with debt issues, growth issues and concerns about adequacy of foreign reserves. But this country has never been in the fiscal condition that it currently finds itself, all because of fiscal ignorance. The condition is worse than in the early 1990s under Sandi.
I well recall the strident criticism of some who now prefer to ignore the realities and wallow in their new-found positions, when it is evident that the country is in a state of paralysis. What especially makes the paralysis worse is that unlike the early 1990s, the private sector is less able.
There is certainly need for a Budget, but not in the traditional sense of reciting numbers, painting pictures and imposing opinions. The time has come for an assessment that appreciates the limited economic choices, the delicate societal balances and the futile political posturing. This is one of those moments in time!
What is most troubling is that the challenges are coming when the cupboard seems to be at its barest.
The adoption of a home-grown philosophy in the spirit of Jamaica’s athletics demands the availability of talent. The abandonment of a philosophy as engaged by the Brazilian football leaders is a failure to recognise tradition and its role in previous successes.
Unfortunately, there is a very little in West Indies cricket to draw on, except a level of stubbornness that is reflective of ignorance. It is time for change but the danger lies in that change being imposed from outside, given the absence of internal fortitude to resist it or to provide an alternative path.
Contrary to a well executed piece of snobbery, sports is an area that requires much more than physical presence; it demands thought, longs for innovation and thrives on competition.
• Clyde Mascoll is a professional economist and former Government minister in the last Barbados Labour Party administration.