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Saturday 20 July 2019
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A Ministry of Carnival?

FOR THEIR ambitious vision, K2K Alliance and Partners were justly rewarded with the Band of the Year title. Such was the undeniable power of their art that it mattered not that Through Stained Glass Windows was a medium band. Theirs was a mas that reminded us of the glorious potential of our Carnival arts.

Yesterday’s call by National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters for the setting up of a dedicated Cabinet ministry for Carnival can be seen as yet another in a long line of proposals made over the years to promote and improve Carnival.

He argued that a Ministry of Carnival would have dedicated funding and administration “that would take Carnival where we want it.”

A dedicated Cabinet ministry would seem appropriate for Carnival when we consider the scale of the festival. It is perhaps not appreciated how much work has to happen for the overall celebration to run smoothly. Having all this work centralised in one ministry, and a ministry that sits alongside security and tourism portfolios at the weekly Cabinet meeting might engender useful synergies.

Yet, while funding delays could potentially be avoided or minimised by such a move, there would be disadvantages. The whole raison d’etre of the National Carnival Commission that Peters chairs is to perform the very functions he seeks to allocate elsewhere. The NCC has the advantage of being consultative and non-political. Though Cabinet appoints its officials, the duties and responsibilities of commissioners are defined by statute, not by Cabinet responsibility or political imperatives.

Furthermore, Parliament in its wisdom sought to ensure all stakeholders have a say in the overall management of Carnival in a way that is more direct than it would be in a government ministry. A government ministry, while it may have a discretion to hold consultations, is under no obligations to do so. Additionally, there is something to be said for an organisation being dedicated to specialising in Carnival without the strictures of the public service.

While there are complaints about the disbursal of funds, it should also be remembered that control of spending is an equally important part of the equation. Removing procurement processes in relation to culture further away from Cabinet and placing it into the hands of officials with a greater understanding of the needs of the cultural sector is an advantage.

Peters is right, however, to suggest the need for reform. The reform that would benefit us most is a strengthening of the NCC, making its processes more transparent and accountable, with greater attention to how its money is handled. Every year, questions are asked about spending, be it on tents, vendors’ booths or unnecessary stands. What we need is not yet another government ministry but a robust commission with the highest accounting practices.

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