PORT OF SPAIN –– The government has reduced the budgetary allocation for Carnival 2016 by approximately $44 million. This was revealed by Minister of Culture, Arts and Community Development Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.
In 2015, the allocation for Carnival was $314 million but has been cut to $270 million for next year’s festival. In an interview with reporters after yesterday’s opening of the $13 million Beetham Gardens Community Centre, Gadsby-Dolly said the current economic conditions had forced the Government to cut back.
The 14 per cent reduction is the latest in a series of cuts announced by the government. Earlier this month, ministries were advised to reduce spending on Christmas parties and a far as possible scale them down to cater for staff only.
Gadsby-Dolly said: “Yes, that is what we are considering at this point because in every ministry there are shortfalls, but we are looking to determine how we can establish the quality of the festival and not sacrifice that just because we don’t have the exact allocation that we would have expected from before.”
Asked if the Carnival stakeholders should be worried about the proposed reduction in allocation, Gadsby-Dolly responded quickly: “We have been in contact with our stakeholders and they understand the situation.”
She said the ministry was “in constant communication [with them] ensuring that they have what they need and the support from the ministry to be able to bring off what they have to for the Carnival”.
Gadsby-Dolly said there was other funding provided from the ministry and different State enterprises for Carnival, but she did not elaborate. The National Carnival Commission (NCC) has said it was looking at creative ways to manage the reduced allocation. In an interview yesterday, NCC chairman Kenny de Silva said the commission was looking at how to cut costs or increase revenue.
Of the $270 million allocated to the commission for next year’s festival, $60 million was used to pay outstanding debts.
“Contractors may have to adjust their prices downward,” De Silva said, adding it had already become a reality, as suppliers, understanding the economic challenges, had given the commission discounts of between ten and 20 per cent.
“They are very sensitive to the issue of less funding. They are being conscious to that and are very amenable,” he added. Earlier this week, NCC communications manager Kevon Gervais said the commission did not foresee a significant impact on the festival.
“There are changes that need to be made and so these changes will be made.
“We don’t intend to do less things, but we have to be more creative and innovative in the way funding is spent,” Gervais added.
Last year, the NCC received over $314 million in funding with a significant amount going toward debts from the 2014 festival.
Out of that funding, the National Carnival Bandleaders Association received $14 million, Pan Trinbago received $34.2 million and the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organization received $10.8 million.
This year Pan Trinbago will receive $30 million in funding while the other two Carnival stakeholders will see funding reduced by approximately $2 million. Heads of Carnival organizations did not return repeated calls yesterday.
Gadsby-Dolly said she was not able to comment on the issue of the retention of the $2 million first prize for the International Soca Monarch.
The show features the top soca artists from Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean. Soca star Machel Montano is not expected to defend his title this year, having said that last year would have been his last in the competition.
Parade Of The Bands will be on Monday, February 8, and Tuesday, February 9, 2016.