SAN Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello does not support the suggestion by captain of San City Steel Orchestra Aquil Arrindell to cut Panorama prize money so players could receive a stipend.
Regrello said it was he, as an alderman at the San Fernando City Corporation and chair of its Carnival committee, who was able to get the prize money increased from $750,000 to $1 million. He said this was an incentive to get bands to participate in the 2017 National Panorama competition held for the first and only time at Skinner Park, San Fernando.
“They should not have gotten the increase just to come to San Fernando. One million should have always been the first prize as an incentive of what it costs to get them to the finals. But they were reluctant to come to Skinner Park,” Regrello said.
He said to get from preliminary to final stages, a large band’s budget is beyond $500,000.
“Panorama finals probably take about two-thirds of a band’s annual budget for tuning, arranging, blending of instruments, uniforms and T-shirts, decorations, because it is a phenomenal event.
"In the case of bands from San Fernando, they have to pay transportation cost of over $100,000, pay for loaders to put the pans on the trucks and take them off.
"Bands from Port of Spain don’t have that challenge, they could push their pans to the Savannah.”
He said he knew Arrindell’s heart is in the right place, 'But I beg to differ with him.
"That stipend for players started around 1997 when BWIA (as a pan sponsor) introduced the players' incentive of about $200 once you made it to the finals, I think.”
Regrello who served on the executive of PanTrinbago at one time, said in good years the stipend went up to $1,000, then fluctuated between $500 and $800.
CEO of CAL Skiffle, which placed second in the 2018 National Panorama (large band category), Regrello pointed to some “malfeasance inside there, with people giving out the names of others to get cheques. So that had to be sorted out, and sometimes you have to go backwards to move forward.”
The prize money was an incentive, he said, "But players must develop that sense of appreciation to work for the love of it. I know It is difficult, as there are a lot of unemployed young people, but I was a young man when I started playing pan. We had no incentive in those days, we did it for the love of pan, and 50 years later I am still here, committed to the cause, still contributing.”
Arrindell’s suggestion was contained in a letter to Pan Trinbago president Beverly Ramsey-Moore, who has said no stipend will be paid to players participating in the 2019 and 2020 competitions. She gave as a reason a $10 million cut in the government allocation.
Arrindell, speaking on behalf of the 75 players inhis medium band from San Fernando. said they are still owed their 2018 stipend.
He told the pan boss, "Whatever percentage the new budget is reduced by, all monies to bands and players should be cut at that percentage.”
He said if the allocation has been cut by one-third, the cut should be across the board for the winning band and players, and the poor pan man should not be the only one bearing the burden of this austerity measure.
Some bands have already said that without the promised stipend they are finding it difficult to field a full quota for the national competition. Large bands have a complement of 100, smaller band up to 75 players and small bands over 35.
Ramsey-Moore, who said she inherited a lot of debt when she was elected last year, asked members of her fraternity to“hold strain,” promising to make it up to them when PanTrinbago “gets back on its feet.”