6 March 2017

The incredible likeness of George Chambers’ ghost.

When George Chambers uttered the phrase: “fete over, back to work”, he probably didn’t realise how immortal and timeless those words would become.
With the economy of Trinidad and Tobago in recession, oil prices remaining in a stagnant state, GDP falling, foreign exchange in scarce supply, and many of our citizens finding it hard to make “ends meet,” does it make sense shelling out over $1,500.00 to attend a fete, or borrowing over $6,000.00 at a 9% interest to fund a Carnival costume that is good for just a day’s or two days’ use?
So, in the spirit of George Chambers’ immortal words, the fete may be over and we may all be back at work, but was the fete worth supporting in the first place, especially when the activities of the central government and the economy of Trinidad and Tobago are severely curtailed by a lack of revenue and positive economic activity?

                   Photo Courtesy: Outlish Magazine

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago’s support for Carnival: enter stage right – the National Carnival Commission

By way of setting the scene, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago supports the annual Carnival events through several initiatives, but its primary channel of support comes through the activities of the National Carnival Commission (NCC).
According to Section 4 of the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad and Tobago Act (1991), the NCC’s functions are defined as:
  1. Making Carnival a viable national, cultural and commercial enterprise.
  2. Providing the necessary managerial and organisational infrastructure for the efficient presentation and marketing of the cultural products of Carnival.
  3. Establishing arrangements for ongoing research, and the presentation, and permanent display of the annual accumulation of Carnival products created each year by the craftsmen, musicians, composers, and designers of Carnival.

Is Carnival worth promoting?

Some may argue that in the current economic climate, Carnival isn’t worth the effort of promoting and that it detracts from the urgent need to focus on the economic problems that Trinidad and Tobago face. Further to this, you can add into the equation the serious – spiralling out of control – crime problem, and you can understand why such an argument could easily gain traction (and is therefore worthy of some debate).
However, as quickly as we can acknowledge this argument, we can, in this writer’s opinion, also dismiss it.
Carnival has the huge potential to grow and diversify the economy of Trinidad and Tobago and the social benefits of promoting it as an international event outweigh the negatives ten-fold.
Consider the following:
  • The economic benefits of Carnival cannot be measured in just dollars and cents, although that is a good starting position to start to evaluate Carnival. The economic benefits of Carnival are diverse: there is the wealth creation through the generation of intellectual property rights by artists, and the royalties that are generated, through to the development of offshoot entrepreneurial activities witnessed by the many street vendors selling products as diverse as food, drinks, jewellery, items of clothing, sun-block, sun hats, bandanas, ice cream, and energy supplements. Added to this is the inflow of overseas visitors, and the foreign exchange earnings, as well as the hotels and numerous jobs which are generated. Carnival is – at least in dollars and cents terms – a public and private sector economic miracle.
  • There are also the social benefits of Carnival. For those who get involved, whether it is working in a mas camp, or helping to support the many Carnival activities, the leadership skills, self-esteem, work ethic, and social skills this engenders particularly in the young, remain priceless and beyond expression in mere “dollars and cents” terms.
  • Carnival, and all the Carnival-related activities, are the ultimate expressions of what Trinidad and Tobago can do together as a nation when everyone comes together irrespective of individual racial heritage and backgrounds. In a nutshell, Carnival manages to bridge across Trinidad and Tobago’s political and social differences like no other event or activity.
  • And finally, consider Carnival to be the perfect capsulation of Trinidad and Tobago’s creativity and talent “en-masse”. Include here artists like Bunji Garlin, costume creators like Peter Minshall, steel bands like Desperadoes etc.: obviously this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, but it is indicative of the vast pool of talent that exists in the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

The biggest show or the biggest pie in the world?

Carnival is obviously a huge extravaganza.
Whether it is the greatest show on earth is debatable, although to many of the thousands that choose to “play mas” it is self-evident that for them it is.
What is beyond debate is that Carnival is a miraculous ‘economic pie’ that everyone can share. That is why we should cherish it, protect it, and nurture it, regardless of the state of our economy.
From the artists who perform, to the promoters that stage fetes, to the sponsors, like Angostura, Carib, BP, B-Mobile and Digicel, to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago which provides financing for Carnival-related activities and events, to the street vendors who sell jewellery, snacks and drinks, Carnival is truly an “all-inclusive” event.
Everyone has a chance to participate!
Perhaps after all, the ghost of George Chambers’ quote can rest easily, and we can all go back to work and continue to fete a little in moderation?

Finally, for those who are die hard Carnival fans: take comfort in the fact that as at Monday 6th March 2017, there are only 342 days until Carnival 2018.


Closing thoughts – time to consider your investing strategies

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A Firstline Securities Limited Blog by: Mike

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