Tobago bandleaders to get mas grants

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Masqueraders from the J’Ouvert band Cocoa Beans to Liquid enjoy themselves at Crown Point on Carnival Monday. – Photo by Vindra Gopaul

THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine says the executive council has approved the payment of grants for Tobago’s bandleaders for the upcoming February Carnival.

In a video on his Facebook page on Friday, Augustine said the proposal for grants that came to the THA was a budget of $140,000. But he said the executive council has agreed to double that amount to $280,000.

“So the association for the mas-makers proposed $140,000. However, when we came to the meeting, which I chaired yesterday (Thursday) with (the) Festivals Commission, when I looked at it I felt it was only practical. So we went ahead and doubled that to $280,000 for the grants that will be given,” he said.

He said the increase in budget would cater to those in the mas-making fraternity who may not be members of the Tobago Carnival Bandleaders Association.

Augustine said, “When we look at the economics of the thing and the economies of scale for Tobago, it is very difficult for masmen and women to make a profit in Tobago given how small the economies of scale are. Therefore, increasing the grant request will ensure that all of the mas-makers will actually have an opportunity to not suffer a loss in terms of their output for Carnival.”

He said up to Thursday, proposals were still coming in from some members of the association.

“So imagine having to pin down the budget, taking the budget to executive council for approval and at the same time just yesterday (Thursday) we are getting some proposals and in some instances changes to proposals earlier submitted from the various associations.”

Augustine said bandleaders receiving grants will get visits from the Festivals Commission’s technical officers “so as to ensure that you are, in fact, making mas at this time. “So it is one thing to say ‘I am making mas, I am registered, I need a grant.’

But there will be a follow-up exercise where technical officers will come in unannounced and visit your engine room, so to speak, to see what you are doing and to see how best we can provide additional help.”

Referring to the new procurement act, which was proclaimed last year, Augustine told bandleaders that cheques simply cannot be provided to them in their name.

“So if you have a mas band and you are a mas bandleader, by this time your company should be duly registered and you should have a bank account that carries the name of your business…If you are to receive state funds, you should have a separate bank account.”

In the video, Augustine said he was performing the duties of culture secretary in the absence of Tashia Burris, who recently fell ill and is on mandatory leave.

He said he felt it necessary to clear up some of the misinformation being peddled in the public domain in relation to next month’s Carnival.

Augustine said Tobago is in a “transitioning position” as it relates to Carnival, “meaning that we are preparing Tobago to refine its February product to one where we can take advantage of elements in the market that are now being dominated by Trinidad Carnival.”

In this regard, he said the focus will be on marketing for domestic tourists.

“That will allow Tobago to have two bites of the cherry.”

He also announced that a kiddies Carnival will take place as well as J’Ouvert in Roxborough and Crown Point. But there will be no Afro Queen show in February.