$ WOES FOR NCC – Regional bodies struggle to access Government’s Carnival funding

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters –

AS regional bodies complain about the lack of funding for Carnival, head of the National Carnival Commission (NCC) Winston “Gypsy” Peters is saying it is yet to receive its promised subvention of $147 million from Government.

Gypsy told the Newsday on Wednesday, once the NCC gets its money, the regions would get their subvention.

Tourism, Culture and Arts Minister, Randall Mitchell denied this was the case, however, saying “the truth is that the NCC has not been making the requests for the money. I don’t understand why this is not being done.”

He said the NCC has made two requests, one for $17 million and another for $19 million. One has been processed and the other is waiting to be processed by the Ministry of Finance.

He said his ministry had to call in the chairman and CEO for a meeting. He said they met with the permanent secretary who indicated no requests were made.

“They only made a request last week, and we put that through to be processed by the Ministry of Finance,” Mitchell said.

The question of no money for Carnival raised its ugly head in San Fernando on Tuesday night, as San Fernando mayor Junia Regrello blamed it for the cancellation of the city’s planned king and queen of Carnival competition.

At the south calypso monarch competition held at City Auditorium on Tuesday night, Regrello lamented that one week before what is supposed to be the “mother of all carnivals,” the city is yet to receive a cent or a commitment from the NCC about its subvention to manage its events.

Gypsy said that was not true. He said a figure was quoted to the mayor so he knew how much the San Fernando City Corporation (SFCC) was getting.

“I am sure if he wanted to have a queen show he could have found a way to go ahead and have it, because their money sure. They are gonna get it.”

The San Fernando calypso monarch competition was won by Victoria Cooper-Rahim, who sings under the sobriquet Queen Victoria. However although she won the title, there was no crowning or prizes awarded.

In fact, many of the competitors left before the show ended, as they were told before of the uncertainty of prizes to be awarded based on the absence of the annual subvention

As the judges deliberated the results, Regrello addressed the audience, telling them he had not received a cent nor a commitment of what its allocation would be this year.

The money drought is already being blamed for the cancellation of the kings and queens competition which was carded for Tuesday night on Harris Promenade.

Every year the SFCC has held a pre-Dimanche Gras competition at Skinner Park, in which the south king and queen of Carnival, a south calypso monarch and pan champs were declared.

Due to the lack of finances, the event was scaled down to a free show on Harris Promenade, for the judging of at least, the king and queen and calypso monarch competitions.

Unable to reach the NCC for confirmation of its funding until late Tuesday, Regrello said they were forced to call off the King and Queen competition.

“We had to play it safe. We brought the calypsonians on the ready-made stage at the auditorium. We were adamant that this show should come off.”

He said the public is unaware of the horrors the San Fernando Carnival Committee face in struggling to get funds to pull off a few events.

Calypsonians had to perform with tracks as no live band could be hired to accompany them.

“We would have liked to have a live band, have the show on the band stand of the Promenade to create some public awareness.”

Knocking the insensitivity of the NCC, Regrello said if there was a commitment they could make arrangements to get credit and go ahead with their plans.

“We have no doubt we will get the money, the question is when. Carnival is a few days away and at this point, the band leaders are frustrated, masqueraders are frustrated.”

Regrello commended the calypsonians whom he said agreed to compete on a promise to pay.

“We are committed to giving prizes to calypsonian who performed here tonight. We are not sure what the figure would be we would do what we have to do. We want to commend them for their commitment and performance here so far.”

Some of the competitors told the Newsday they had verbal discussions with the Carnival committee prior to the show and were able to get a commitment of a first prize of $13,000, $10,000 second place and $7,500 for the person coming in third. For the other competitors a cash prize of $4,000 each would also be awarded.

Regrello did not confirm those figures.

He also commended “the hard working judges. Some of you have not been paid. We do this together and we continue to do so for the love of culture, but eventually you will be compensated for your contribution and hard work,” he promised.

In terms of the judging of a San Fernando king and queen, Regrello said the SFCC was exploring two options: to either award the south bands which scored the highest points at the national competition in the Savannah, or judge them on the road on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

Gypsy said the mayor might be setting a trend with judging on the street and welcomed the innovative idea.

In terms of its annual allocation, he assured, “San Fernando is going to get its money.”

He said the SFCC situation is neither peculiar nor dire, as all the other regions are in the same situation.

“Everybody will just have to wait until we get ours. The NCC is a subventive organisation from the Government. We subvent the people we have to and, until and unless we get the money, we can’t give them any. It’s not like we have money stock up anywhere.”

He said Government had given the NCC the leeway to spend $147 million for Carnival, “but that does not mean the Government has given us all that money and say ‘look NCC, hold this money and go ahead and spend.”

He said before they get a cent of that money the NCC has to account and justify how it is to be spent.

Mitchell agreed that “monies are not simply paid off. It’s a process by which you will make a request for releases. Your requests are supported by Bill and the request goes through the ministry to the MOF and the MOF process that request and then releases are sent to the NCC.”