Every year, T&T spends hundreds of millions of dollars to host Carnival Events, which is supposed to be the greatest show on earth. The justification being that it will boost the tourism sector and create employment, maybe for about three months or so. It has been this same calypso sung to the population for decades. Although most of the events are jam packed with paying patrons, year after year, the promoters come back cap in hand wanting hand outs, with the sob story that if they don’t get more money, the event will be cancelled.
It took low oil prices and the recession to begin to open the eyes of government officials, the country is being duped. If Carnival has to continue, it must become an independent profit centre and not a drain on the national purse, where only a few promoters are really making all of the money. No, these guys are not doing it just because they love ‘we culture’.
The truth is that the Carnival business model is a dismal failure, and has done nothing to really benefit the economy in any significant way. The same can be said for Carnival in Brazil – this country is now also in recession and is projected to have the sixth fastest shrinking economy in the world for 2016.
In 2015, $314 million was blown for Carnival. Last year, the newly appointed Minister of Culture, Arts and Community Development Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, indicated that there would be a reduced allocation of 14%, and only $270 million would be spent instead. But what is surprising here is that the National Carnival Commission (NCC) has indicated that $60 million of the $270 million is to be used to pay outstanding debts from 2015. Hence I won’t be surprised if the money woes and unpaid bills are even worse at the end of the 2016 Carnival season, and the government will then have to fork out more money on this dead horse that we call Carnival. The key stakeholders here have the perennial problem of poor fiscal management and overspending. They don’t really seem to care, because the government will always be there to bail them out.
Biggest Beneficiaries of Carnival (2015 allocations):
– National Carnival Bandleaders Association received $14 million
– Pan Trinbago received $34.2 million
– Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organization received $10.8 million
– balance = $311 million (the writer is not sure where all that went.)
The Mas tradition started in the late 18th century with French plantation owners organizing masquerades (mas) and balls before enduring the fasting of Lent. The slaves, who could not take part in these masquerades, and thus formed their own, a parallel celebration called “Canboulay”. Canboulay (from the French cannes brulées, meaning burnt cane) is a precursor to Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, and has played an important role in the development of the music of Trinidad and Tobago.
It is important to understand that Carnival evolved from and continues to promote a ‘slavery mentality’. Where the slaves were oppressed all year long and then were given a brief stint at liberty to imitate their colonial masters and ‘free up’ for a couple of days. The slave masters realized that this break in their hard toils made them easier to manage. To this day we see where our leaders handsomely pay foreigners gigantic salaries to solve our problems, as if they are our colonial masters. But in the end, the delusion is shattered and the nation realizes that we were just taken for another ride.
In conclusion, apart from the first pull on the economy, Carnival indirectly causes further drains as follows:
– Drunk driving and road fatalities
– Unwanted children and single parent families
– Lowering of moral standards
– Lowering of productivity and poor work ethic
If carnival cannot be profitable to our country, maybe it’s time to scale it back more, or scrap it all together.