THERE are not many places where a million-dollar prize fails to satisfy those contending for such a bumper jackpot. But the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) proceeded to voice its displeasure with the lucrative figure and asked the Government to increase the winner’s purse for the 2014 National Calypso Monarch competition, which will be contested as part of Dimanche Gras tomorrow night at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
Earlier this week, TUCO president Brother Resistance (Lutalo Masimba) claimed it was an “embarrassment” to citizens and the People’s Partnership Government for the Calypso Monarch to receive just $1 million.
He drew a comparison to the Soca Monarch and Chutney Soca Monarch shows, which each boast a first prize of $2 million, and appealed for equity, sending an official request to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Minister of the Arts and Multiculturalism Lincoln Douglas.
But following Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, Minister Douglas announced that the request was rejected, stating that Government does not fix the prize money for these competitions and, if TUCO wanted, the million-dollar prize could be increased using its own funding.
The minister pointed out that TUCO receives an annual subvention from Government of almost $9 million, which the organisation uses to produce its shows and for prize money.
“As far as I know ... Government has not decided on any prize money. All of the promoters have decided what their prize money is,” said Minister Douglas, who added that in addition to the multi-million subvention to TUCO, the State also stands the cost for the stages and sound systems for its various events.
So although the response of many of those asked their opinion on the matter was that the National Calypso Monarch should receive the same monetary prize as the Soca and Chutney Soca winners, it would appear that the Government has more than played its part in supporting the calypso art form.
And to reinforce that point, Minister Douglas said it was “unfair” for TUCO to compare the prize money for the three events, as the Soca and Chutney Soca competitions are organised by private enterprise and those promoters bear all production expenses.
“I think it’s unfair for them to make that kind of analysis and create a slightly inflammatory situation,” said the minister.
He also said he does not have any issue with the Calypso Monarch taking home $2 million, but reiterated that TUCO should be the one responsible for any increase in prize money.
Which is a reasonable retort to TUCO’s request and a sound argument against the attempt to hold the State to ransom at the 11th hour.
It again reinforces the need for the national festival to become more self-sufficient, with everybody being held accountable for what is taxpayers’ money being handed out by the Government of the day.
There is no denying that we need to treasure and appreciate the art form and its exponents, but anywhere you go ... a million dollars is a million dollars.