Please permit me a space in your publication to express this opinion.
As I follow media reports and talk shows over the past two week I cannot help but ask myself if this carnival thing really makes sense. This so called première cultural event is always surrounded by melee, bad blood and negativity. 99.9% of the times this surrounds money. In recent times, we have heard about the very late payments made to the steelbands, which in the cancellation of our traditional Panorama last year. Then it was the controversy over how much the calypsonians partaking in Dimanche Gras should get. So much so, there was heated debate during the actual show about appearances fees. As we roll over into 2011, we are now hearing that almost six weeks after carnival prize monies are yet to be paid and apparently no one seems to have an exact date when this will happen. As someone who prides himself in being very practical, I wondered why. Why is it, there always seems to be a shortage of money? Why does a so called ‘successful’ carnival season, not translate into little controversy and participants and service providers all smiling on their way to the bank? I am no journalist, far less can I claim to specialize in investigative journalism but I decided to cruise a few sites online to see if I can count the GCC’s money.
Things turned out to be easier than I anticipated. The Spicemas website (under ‘Press’) actually has all the monies owed to the various stakeholders listed in documents called the Rules and Regulations Governing the various aspects of carnival. Well all monies, except those obligated by contracts to service providers and from sponsors, seem to be listed.
What I discovered was that the GCC is required to pay $211,000 in subventions to the stakeholders of mas, pan and calypso and some $817,250 in prize monies. This amounts to $1,057,250 in direct transfer to competitors and their organizations. The following is the breakdown:
|Mas – Senior||$75,000||$87,950|
|Mas – Junior||$29,000|
|Steelband – Senior||$96,000||$257,000|
|Steelband – Junior||$36,000|
|Calypso – Senior||$40,000||$196,600|
|Calypso – Junior||$9500|
Intuitively, I was of the belief that this was not a lot of money and a minor investment to make in the artisans of this major cultural festival. Of course it became necessary to examine the revenue side of things. Not being privy to the finances of the organization, I was forced to utilize public comments and further searches of the spicemasgrenada website to get some numbers upon which to base my estimates. I must also add that I was fortunate enough to have attended all the shows.
|Soca Semifinal ($25)||1900||$47,500|
|Calypso Semifinal ($25)||1000||$25,000|
|Kiddes Carnival ($7 avg)||4000||$28,000|
|Queen Show ($40)||750||$30,000|
|Soca Final ($50)||7000||$350,000|
|Dimanche Gras ($40)||1200||$48,000|
|Subvention – Government||$827,000|
|Sponsorship – LIME||$300,000|
For the purposes of this survey, I made a guesstimate on attendance to the various shows. If I am even close to right, straight off we see that there is a shortfall of monies disbursed to participants of $500,750. That is, revenue from all shows total $556,500 while subventions and prizes total $1, 057,250. This is no cause for alarm as I would expect that Government subventions and private sponsorships to cover this deficit. Information from press conferences and other public statements made by Minister with Responsibility for Culture, Senator Arley Gill and GCC’s Chairman, Colin Dowe suggest that Government’s cash contribution to carnival is $827,000. Under sponsorships, only LIME is mentioned since the cultural leaders have not associated any figure with the other sponsors leaving us to assume that their support is minimal in the overall scheme of things.
The above breakdown indicates that if the GCC is to break even, the staging of carnival must cost about $626,250. As a lay person, this appeared to be more than enough to stage ten (10) shows. A conversation with an industry insider however, pointed me in a different direction. He started listing expenses, which included stage, light, sound, judges, backing bands, security, venue rentals and preparations, cleaning, toilets, guest artistes, production, etc. for all stages of the competitions. It was further pointed out that the GCC has to pay rent for the National Stadium at similar cost to Waggy T and other private shows, which can approximate $80,000. What was shocking was the revelation that over $40,000 has to be paid to the Police Band. I was left scratching my head because I thought that both the stadium and the police band were owned and operated by Government and that carnival was a national festival.
Looking at the above one can clearly see how quickly money can be consumed. It therefore means that we either cut back on our expenses, including prizes, etc, demand a greater investment from both Government and the private sector or abandon the carnival thing. Since the first option is a non-starter, I have to ask myself, who benefits from carnival? Why is there so little investment by the people who make money? Why isn’t the GCC attracting larger sponsorship deals? Aren’t there tax credits for private sector support of culture? Does Grenada benefit from carnival? How much? Why is Government’s role so limited? Even if there is no cash in the Treasury, why can’t the Government ensure that other Government agencies do not charge the GCC? That too is valued sponsorship. I am now hearing that Government has given the GCC less than half of what was budgeted for carnival and we are in September. Why is that?
I have not heard any member of the GCC, now or before asking these questions. Why the silence?
It seems to me that unless there is a wholistic approach to the support of Spicemas, this carnival thing is just not making sense.