This year there has been more meetings than actual events when it comes to “Looshan Carnival” 2010, leaving more than just a bitter tastes in the mouths of many over the event which supposedly has a tag line “nothing sweeter than that.” Money and the financing of the event have been at the centre of most of those meetings. Carnival over the years has been heavily subsidized by Government and whilst the various shows at Carnival have been major draws in terms of crowd, the event has suffered perennial financial losses, with little public accountability.
This year it would appear that the Ministry of finance which is headed by Prime Minister Stephenson King is going all out to tighten the screws on the financial operations of the Cultural Development Foundation, the CDF, the institution which has the mandate for overseeing carnival events. After several meetings with between the Carnival stakeholders and CDF as well as between CDF and the Minister of Culture, there appeared to have been a stalemate last week about the financing for carnival, which over the past three years had received a boost of EC$1 million per year.
Last Friday morning the Saint Lucia Calypso Association told the media that after last weekend they would have been pulling out of any competition events, with Calypso quarter finals due this week and Groovy and Power Soca qualifiers due last Saturday. But in a last ditch effort to save Carnival, hours later the Government’s press secretary announced that yet another EC$1 million would be made available to Carnival 2010. Ah but there is a catch the STAR has since learnt, or maybe more than just one. The money we have learnt will not be placed in the coffers for them to do as they please. Apparently the condition is such that all invoices and bills related to carnival must be submitted to the Ministry of Education and Culture for perusal and for subsequent payment.
So what now of the Saint Lucia Calypso Association? Well after Friday’s announcement they were still holding on to their position pending receipt of an official communiqué from either CDF or the Government. On Sunday head of the CDF board Milton Branford met with the Calypso Association to discuss the way forward. The STAR has learnt that the meeting was quite cordial with just one issue unresolved. The Calypso Association had been negotiating EC$150,000 to split among the five tents. But whilst this money was guaranteed over the weekend, there is a little matter of a ten percent tax which would be placed on that figure and all other fees and prize money paid out to Calypsonians and Soca artistes for Carnival 2010.
But whilst on Friday the SLCA 2009 had this to say; “we are completely dissatisfied with the disregard and apparent lack of respect from the Ministry of Culture after the assurance that we would receive firm word on our subvention by Wednesday June 16, 2010,” on Monday they were singing a different tune. Having since been written to be the Ministry of Education and Culture the Calypso tents will as of this evening be hosting their quarter finals with Spectrum setting things off tonight, followed by TOT on Thursday night, South tent on Friday and Ambassadors on Saturday. The issue of the ten percent tax the SLCA has been advised to approach Inland Revenue for a waiver.
The STAR has also been informed that of the EC$1 million just half of that will go directly to CDF to cover their expenses and prize money whilst the balance will go towards community carnival, Calypso and Steel-pan. The government is also demanding that CDF presents a detailed document about its operations and expenses for Carnival this year as well as its proposals for making the event more financially viable in the future. This was one of the intentions in the first place when carnival was shifted from its traditional pre-lentern period to July.