The review of spending on Carifesta XIV, hosted by TT in 2019, offered a troubling picture of sketchy organisation, highlighted by overspending to the tune of more than $12 million on a budget of $28 million.
Months after the event, the government is yet to explain the spending to the Auditor General’s office, the Public Accounts Committee was told, last week.
Accountability and transparency haven’t been hallmarks of government spending on the creative arts and Carnival; a major recipient of state spending remains an unknown quantity.
At a webinar discussion on Carnival policy last week, there was discussion of how innovation might improve the festival in 2021.
Fanciful discussions about costuming that embraces the design of covid19 protective wear and using larger venues to create physical distancing at events seem less like a new norm than an over-ambitious imagining of the shaky possibility of Carnival in the next eight months.
While this country cautiously relaxes covid19 restrictions, last week, the world registered the single highest total of daily infections since the pandemic began.
We are nowhere near a post-covid19 world. The long haul of managing the presence of the virus may still be in its early stages.
The so-far successful management of the spread of the virus in TT is itself a two-edged sword. The small number of infections and deaths also means there has been little opportunity to develop herd immunity, which limits spread. Vaccines jumpstart that process, but we are long months away from one. Meanwhile the relatively low numbers of infections lead to complacency.
The state-appointed managers of Carnival must prepare for the realities facing Carnival in 2021 and should, by now, be articulating plans that respond to possible scenarios over the next six months.
Any reopening of our borders to visitors, no matter how limited, brings the possibility of a spark setting blaze to the dry kindling of our collective lack of immunity to the novel coronavirus.
How will a festival staged at least in part to attract tourists to engage in a style of entertainment built on close proximity, touching and yes, wining, be possible in 2021?
In 1972, the festival was postponed until May as concerns about the spread of polio raged. Carnival was cancelled entirely during World War II. We are at war now, though with an invisible enemy.
The planning for Carifesta was subpar and significant sums were apparently spent to paper over the problems.
There will be no leeway for Carnival 2021. There’s no room for the lurching, stop-start approach that characterises pre-Carnival preparations.
Carnival 2021 can’t wait for January. The planning for the event and the many workers and participants who depend on it demands new foresight and a strategic approach that must be the first innovation Carnival – and the physical as well as economic wellbeing of the population – deserve.