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$150M DEBT

By SEAN DOUGLAS Friday, February 7 2014

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MINISTER of the Arts and Multiculturalism Dr Lincoln Douglas will give $190 million to cover Carnival costs, but most of it, $150 million, will be used to pay debts incurred since 2010, he told yesterday’s post-Cabinet news briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), St Clair.

The balance, $40 million will fund activities of the umbrella body the National Carnival Commission (NCC), plus Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), Pan Trinbago, the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) and 52 regional Carnival committees, he said.

The hefty $150 million is owed to various contractors for past works, he explained, blaming the delays on “a wide range of things” which he did not elaborate on.

Even as he disclosed this huge debt, Douglas announced Government would donate $7.45 million to the International Soca Monarch competition and $4.5 million to the Chutney Soca Monarch contest which are run by private promoters.

Douglas said this Carnival will feature a Carnival Arts Exhibition by the TT Art Society, a Carnival Film Festival by the TT Film Festival Committee, plus the participation of a 40-strong contingent from African nations Nigeria, Benin and Cameroon.

Later Newsday was unable to contact either Douglas or NCC chairman Allison Demas for a breakdown of the debts and how this year’s funds would be allocated to various interest groups.

However, a text from a NCC spokesperson said the Soca Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch shows fall outside the NCC’s remit.

Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz said the pan body expected to receive $33 million, of which $12.6 million has already been paid this month, with the rest due today. It was unclear where this $33 million funding was allocated from.

Of the $12.6 million Pan Trinbago has already received, $11.6 million will be paid directly to individual pannists for their $1,000 per person appearance fee at Panorama. Some $12 million is for prize money, Diaz added. Further, some of the funding will be paid to help steelbands with their preparation costs and band appearance fee for Panorama. Diaz said past debts owed to Pan Trinbago, were covered by a $4 million payment last December.

All that is now outstanding to the pan fraternity, he said, is some governmental assistance owed to bands for participating in Carnival itself — apart from Panorama — to be paid directly to the bands and not through Pan Trinbago.

TUCO leader, Lutalo “Brother Resistance” Masimba said his group is getting $8 million which he lamented is the same as last year and the year before. More money would help to better service the people who bring music, he said and bring due respect to the artform. The first prize for this year’s Calypso Monarch is $1 million, he said, which is the same as last year. He would like the corporate sector to enhance the prize-money.

Asked to compare the allocations to soca and kaiso, Masimba said he did not want to knock the soca artform, some of whose members belong to TUCO, but was simply advocating equality between the two genres.

He said the $7.45 million allocation to soca will fund just two shows, the semi-finals and finals, while the $8 million for TUCO must fund the promotion and production of 15 events, five calypso tents, plus the $4.6 million purse for the Calypso Monarch finals.

NCBA leader David Lopez refused to say what his group’s allocation was, simply saying his request for $33 million was not met and that only contractors will be happy with the allocation.

Budget 2014 documents show a falling allocation to the NCC (for disbursement to stakeholder groups) over recent years.

The Government’s allocation to the NCC fell from $236 million in 2012, to $197 million in revised estimates last year, to a projected estimate of $168 million for this year. A note to the Draft Estimates for Recurrent Expenditure (2014) blamed the past year’s $28.8 million decrease on debt servicing.

The NCC is also variously funded by its Income (falling from $48 million in 2012, to $6.5 million last year, to an estimated $3.5 million this year), according to the Draft Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for Statutory Bodies (2014). These income figures include a projected drop in gate receipts this Carnival from $1.5 million for each of the past two years, down to just $525,000 this year. The NCC’s income this year will also include a projected $100,000 from renting out Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, $119,000 in “concessions/fees”, and $350,000 from advertising.

The “Revenue and Expenditure” document indicates the NCC will this year give an estimated $38 million to Carnival bodies (up from $34 million and $35 million in 2012 and 2013 respectively); $12.7 million to regional Carnivals (up from $9 million for each of the past two years) and $12.9 million in Carnival awards (presumably meaning prize money, up from $9.3 million for each of the past two years). This document also indicated that out of its allocation in recent years the NCC has been repaying the principal and interest on three First Citizens Bank (FCB) loans.

This year the NCC pays the full principal on a $27.8 million loan plus $988,524 interest . Last year the NCC paid the full principal on a $72 million loan plus $2.9 million interest. In 2012, the NCC paid $61 million in principal repayment on a $107 million loan, plus $2.4 million in associated interest payment.

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