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Developing the Carnival industry

By Camille Bethel camille.bethel@trinidadexpress.com

NOW into her second term as chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC) Allison Demas says she is making good on her promise to transform Carnival into a viable industry.

Speaking with the Express at her Gray Street, St Clair office last week Demas said, “When I first started, which was November 12, 2012, I had identified a number of steps that I would take to transform the NCC and in fact if you look back on it, and I am not being a politician, you will see that I have actually delivered.”

Demas told the Express the whole question of transforming Carnival, which has already started, is by not just focusing on Carnival — the event — but also looking at the bigger picture and a longer term view of developing the industry. 

“The focus for the NCC has always been on basically putting up and pulling down infrastructure for Carnival the festival but we have started to transform our responsibility holistically.

“Now when we talk about Carnival as an industry what immediately comes to mind is mas, pan, calypso, soca, chutney but in fact when you look at Carnival you will see that Carnival crosses a number of sectors. So we look at the impact first of all on our tourism sector — look at our hotel accommodation, look at the number of flights we have coming in, look at the spin-offs in terms of taxi drivers, food and beverage and we are including here the small entrepreneurs the vendors arts and crafts vendors. We look at the banking sector and how many loans are taken during Carnival for persons to buy costumes, and in fact if you look at the audited reports of the banks you will see the highest interest that they all earn are from Carnival loans,” she pointed out.

Another area Demas said must be included in the business of Carnival is the health sector where large numbers of people join gyms and become health conscious as well as the opportunity Carnival creates to promote safe sex and awareness about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“Then we look at the whole ancillary services; we look at the contractors — people who provide tents, tables, chairs, sound and lighting equipment. In fact 50 per cent of what NCC spends for the actual Carnival event is on procurement of all these services for basically putting up and taking down infrastructure. Is that an adequate use of taxpayers money, so we want to see more investment, investment in improving our Carnival products,” she added.

Demas said in order to do this several things must be done including having the Carnival industry measured to its fullest extent — which the NCC is currently doing because although studies have been done before, they did not really rely on information from the Central Statistical Office (CSO).

The only study, to date was done by Dr Vanus James and it was a study commissioned by the government in relation to the copyright sector, in 2011, Demas said.

She added that the results of that study which is available on the World Intellectual Property Organisation (wipo) website — wipo.int, is very informative.

“He concluded that the copyright sector accounted for 4.8 per cent of GDP which is not insignificant. Five per cent in terms of employment and generated $4 billion. This is 2011 and this is just for copyright alone so can you imagine if we measure the Carnival to the full extent taking on board all of the other sectors, I outlined, what the probable figure will be,” she said.

Demas pointed out that there has been a lot of debate on whether government is getting a return on its investment on Carnival and whether it is really worth it, but it must be noted that apart from the economic benefits there are social benefits that also have to be measured.

“Because, of course, while there are social ills in Carnival what about all of the benefits like poverty reduction. The NCC alone employs so many people that come on as temporary labourers. If you look at the Carnival Village and the extent of volunteerism.

“Look at the group REACT — they deal with  the radio interactive communications. You have 150 people who volunteer their services during Carnival. You have an operation and infrastructure committee again a number of people volunteer, you have the ushers, all the people engaged in hospitality and that’s just for NCC alone, so you can imagine if you multiply that nationwide — Trinidad as well as Tobago,” she added.

Therefore, she said, the particular approach that the  NCC has taken is to commission a consultant — Dr Vanus James — to actually frame the aide memoire.

“But what is important is the methodology being adopted — one that has been successfully used in the United Nations (UN) system and that is known as the sector-wide approach. And essentially that is very detailed and extensive consultations with all the stakeholders, so that there are also governance benefits to this measurement study, in that it will give all the stakeholders an opportunity to drive policy.

“And given the fact that next year is election year I hardly think that a government will ignore the recommendations coming forward out of this,” Demas reasoned. 

She said it is a whole process of building the democracy through the study that was started in October last year and of which the first set of results are expected in June of this year.

“While we will be doing the data collection as well as the stakeholder consultation we will be bringing in international partners. So possibly apart from the World Intellectual Property Organisation who is already on board, we are possibly looking at the World Bank or the InterAmerican Development Bank who will lend their expertise especially in terms of the analysis of the data, as well as implementation of the policies being recommended, because they are very strong on that.

“So this will bring sort of an international oversight to ensure the accuracy of the data and ensure that we have that expert level of analysis of that data as well as governance and financing.” to a study that she said they are hoping will be an ongoing process.

Demas said there will be regular intervals where the NCC will report and communicate with the public via the media on the data gathered.

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