APPROXIMATELY $3 million is owed to service providers by the Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd (TFCL).
This was revealed by THA Secretary for Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Tashia Burris as she responded to a question from Minority Councillor Petal Benoit-Daniel about the outstanding amounts owed to service providers, suppliers and cultural groups for cultural festivals on the island between January 2022 and January 15, 2024, during Thursday’s plenary sitting, at the Assembly Chamber on Jerningham Street, Scarborough.
“There are no outstanding payments owed by the Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd to Tobago ‘s service providers for the following events: national Carnival 2022, Tobago Heritage Festival 2022, Blue Food Festival 2022 and Tobago October Carnival 2022. There are also no outstanding payments owed to service providers by the Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd for the Heritage Festival 2023.”
She said money is owed to providers for national Carnival 2023 ($135,469), Tobago Jazz Experience 2023 ($503,561.46), Blue Food Festival 2023 ($48,202) and October Tobago Carnival 2023 ($2,545,967.43)
Following a follow-up question, she said the outstanding money will be paid soon.
“As the Tobago Festivals Commission Lid receives its releases from the Division of Tourism, they have prioritised the older payments to be paid first. So they have recently received releases for the end of first quarter and they cleared up the majority of outstanding payments they had for the older events – the national carnival and the Tobago Jazz Experience. So those outstanding balances should be the first one paid when they receive releases for second quarter.”
She could provide no timeline for the release of funding for the second quarter.
“I have no date for when releases would become available. We had done all that we could do in the division to submit our request in a timely manner so we are simply waiting on the releases to come, and when they do, these service providers would be paid at the soonest.”
For the past few weeks, several performers and service providers have complained that they have not been paid for last year's heritage festival, which ran from July 21-August 1.
A demonstration was planned outside Burris’ office in January, but only two people showed up. The protest was eventually cancelled.