The National Cultural Foundation (NCF) and the Barbados Association of Masqueraders (BAM) have reached a stalemate in a row over financial support for the upcoming Crop Over season, with Grand Kadooment likely to be the collateral victim.
The NCF has made it clear that it simply cannot afford to increase subventions to the bandleaders, or the prize monies for the Grand Kadooment bands.
Worse yet, the statutory agency said it too was in a tight financial spot, not having received an increased budget for the event, while it was likely to experience a reduction in sponsorship.
“Considering its budgetary constraints, the Foundation would be unable to grant any increases for the upcoming season,” the NCF said Tuesday in a release in which it gave details of meetings with BAM representatives dating back to January.
BAM President Chetwyn Stewart this week put the country on notice that there would be protest action on Kadooment Day if several issues facing bandleaders were not addressed urgently by the NCF, the Government agency responsible for producing the national festival.
BAM said the bandleaders were “at the end of their tether” after years of promises and no action, vowing that there would be “some unusual and unexpected addition to the parade” because this seemed to be the only course to get the full attention of, and action from, the authorities.
Stewart said the executive had met recently and had decided on an unspecified course of action “which will not look good at all”, adding that several bands, including some of the biggest and most influential such as Ooutraje Festival Band, Blue Box Cart, Baje International, Betty West, Gwyneth Squires, Power X Four – Next Generation and Wednesday 2000 had committed to the agreed action.
The issues of concern to the masqueraders are similar to those raised by Stewart in January when he had told Barbados TODAY the grand finale of Barbados’ premier festival was in trouble and could attract fewer bands and revellers this year.
So concerned was the association at the time that it had written to the NCF, and copied Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, requesting a meeting in an effort to avert a major problem.
The NCF in the release Tuesday confirmed that the meeting had been held at which BAM had proposed “a substantial increase” in both the subvention and prize monies for Grand Kadooment bands.
“In acknowledgement of that proposal, executives from the NCF met with representatives of BAM back on January 19 of this year, to ventilate the issues. It was a cordial discussion, at which the team expressed the organization’s inability to facilitate the requests as presented. At that meeting, the executive team proposed to consult further internally and to revert to BAM at a later date,” the state agency said in the release.
“The NCF noted that they have had no increase in budget for the festival and could also likely be a casualty of the reduction of sponsorship across the board. The Foundation later facilitated a meeting with officers from the Barbados Revenue Authority (BRA) to discuss issues raised by BAM in relation to VAT [Value Added Tax] and other tax concessions, with the expectation of continued dialogue,” the release added.
Stewart said while the meeting with BRA was good, the bandleaders still faced the same situation as in previous years, with the added pressure of a worsening economy.
He also complained that Government, which is struggling under the weight of a massive debt, a widening fiscal deficit and dangerously low foreign reserves, was able to find money for virtually everything, including $7 million for last year’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations and another $6 million for CARIFESTA this year, yet it could not find a few thousand dollars for the festival that pumps an estimated $110 million into the economy.
The NCF insisted that it appreciated BAM’s contribution to the festival, stressing that Grand Kadooment was “the culmination of the over 25 events produced by the NCF for the Barbados Crop Over festival and the association [BAM] has been a big part in the shaping of this product”.
Based on the 2016-2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth received $50.77 million, $6.258 million of which went to the NCF.
It is estimated that it costs the agency between $5 million and $6 million to run the annual three-month Crop Over festival.