A Taste of Carnival Is Not What The Creative Sector Needs


Trinidad & Tobago Carnival 2022

by Rubadiri Victor

I loathe whenever a Creative Sector 'spend' is revealed and the first national outcry is "dey shoulda spend dat money on Education! Or Health." The fact remains that Arts has the historic lowest government subvention apart from Agruculture- and the figures aren't even close. It used to be Arts $350 million (including public sector salaries) vs $10-$15 billion for Education, Health, and National Security each. Stack up that advantage over the years!

If we were to tunnel into the Arts figures some more we'd see of $350m, $150m used to be spent on Carnival- "a complete waste of money" I'm sure some would shout. But Carnival actually brings in $650 million- $1.1 billion in foreign exchange to this country!!! And employs thousands- especially working class people. And it gives us hundreds of millions in positive international Brand T&T coverage per year. Some of our biggest companies also earn between 50-75% of their profits at Carnival...

That is a phenomenal return on investment.

But let's tunnel into the government's Carnival subvention even more. Again, you hear people cry out that PANTRINBAGO & TUCO wasting taxpayers money, etc. And I'd be the first to admit there have been incompetent and corrupt admins in both. We in the Artists' Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) fought them. But the real truth is the following: the spend on Creatives (the actual talent that makes Carnival happen) is probably only around $25 million. THE MAJOR PART OF THE $150 MILLION FROM GOVERNMENT GOES TO INDIVIDUAL CONTRACTS OF $25- $50 million each for tent and latrine rentals, etc... That's money 'fuh de boys!' Not for Artists! A Traditional Mas practitioner who might spent $20,000 to create a Fancy Indian costume that delights the entire Carnival and is photographed 2000 times might win $2,000 and wait 1year to collect dat cheque!... So who really makes Carnival money?

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