Culture and Local Government Minister Fortuna Belrose has said that the hundreds of thousands of dollars owed by the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground (DSCG) for utilities is unfortunate but it is a social cost that government has to bear.
The facility’s WASCO bill dated November 14, 2017 showed arrears of $312,316.32. In addition, a $250 reconnection fee and VAT on that fee of $31.25 is also due, since the stadium’s water supply has been cut.
The DSCG owes power company Saint Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) a similar amount for bills which date back three years.
This is not the first time that the facility has been in hot water with utility companies. There was a similar occurrence in 2012. Sports St. Lucia Inc (SSI) the company charged with managing the stadium, could not meet these overheads so the National Lotteries Authority had stepped in and made payments to the utility companies on its behalf.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Belrose said she is sure that efforts will be made to pay the fees.
“The sports facility, to be honest with you, these are social structures that really do not generate the kind of revenue that we would like. Now, I personally as minister of culture I believe if we can get our culture right …We would be able to generate a lot more revenue within the cultural industry and creative industries to provide support to enable the facilities that we use to be better in terms of their finances to pay their bills. But you know when government invests in sports facilities. It’s really a social cost that one has to bear,” she said.
“It’s unfortunate that the bill has been allowed to drag on for so long… but I think that no doubt in my mind that an effort will be made to pay it because this is a social cost that the state most times has to bear and it cannot run away from it,” she stated.
Among its revenue streams, the DSCG earns money from hosting cricket, football and carnival activities and practice sessions for sporting disciplines. Belrose believes that the problem of high arrears is a matter of planning and priorities.
“I think it’s a question of planning and making sure you have the resources …periodically to pay for it. And it’s not the first time that it’s happening, you know… It’s a question of priorities all the time but it’s a public facility and we all appreciate the stresses. There should be a greater effort to ensure that the bills are paid but the reality is, given the limited nature in which they are used …you have those challenges,” she said.
Belrose is a former SSI Chairperson.