In a country that can’t afford to provide decent housing for its growing poor
Budget 2015 allocates $12m to the Fiji International Golf Tournament to be held at the Natadola Bay Championship Golf course next year.
In 2014 Fiji taxpayers paid $8.6m to host this elitist event which brings a few international golfers to our shores.
And for the three years from 2016-2018 at least another $36m (or more) has been committed under a MOU signed with the Australian PGA organization, bringing the total outlay to a minimum of $57m.
The question is whether hosting such exclusive events at taxpayers’ expense is justifiable public expenditure when 45% of our people live in poverty in deplorable social conditions. If this money were spent instead on housing for the poor, it would help relocate at least 2000 families to decent houses.
Furthermore, should not the private sector be playing this role of hosting the golf tournament as they are the major beneficiaries? As it is, the taxpayer is footing the bill for promoting Fiji tourism with an annual grant of around $25m a year.
Golf is largely a rich-man’s play ground. In Fiji, it does not a have fraction of the following that rugby, soccer, netball and track events command.
So contrast the regime’s generosity towards such elitist sports with the tardiness it has shown in forking out funds for other sports. For instance, we know that Fiji’s athletes are still waiting for government to confirm their request for a mere $2m grant to assist in Fiji Team’s participation in the 2015 Pacific Games.
While not a single Fiji golfer qualified to participate in the first Fiji International Golf Tournament at Natadola this year, hundreds of our athletes take part in the Pacific Games. Yet government has not yet responded to their plea for a $2m assistance.
Besides, our struggling sports sector could do with a greater funding assistance from the government in the development of popular sports and in the training of our athletes. We all know that we have the required skills but our athletes lack training opportunities to excel at regional and international games.
Clearly a case of warped priorities, isn’t it?