Rosalind Gabriel

‘Disappointing’ is the only word Carnival stakeholders could find to describe the $20 million budget approved by the state for the ‘Taste of Carnival’ event.

In unveiling the 200 pods on Monday at the Queen’s Park Savannah, National Carnival Commission (NCC) chairman, Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters, estimated that the budget for the line-up of events will be between $25 to $30 million.

However, the budget was only approved on Thursday by Cabinet and is half of what the NCC had proposed.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA), Rosalind Gabriel said there is now anxiety running through the Carnival camps.

“On Wednesday we opened a registration for the Kings and Queens of Carnival and traditional or conventional individuals and I was astounded because for the first time in about 10 years, we registered 15 kings and 15 queens on the first day and countless conventional. The Mas fraternity is excited, motivated and they’re taking risks to build costumes. To see this $15 million now as the budget and, of course, they’re all panicking,” Gabriel lamented.

She said the concern is how a reduced budget will affect the production of 28 shows.

“It is alarming because it is three weeks of events in three different venues that have been approved and $15 million is not going to cut it. Quite frankly, events would probably have to be cut off of the schedule that has already been published,” Gabriel said.

President of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Calypsonians Organization (TUCO), Ainsley King, complained that stakeholders had been in the dark.

“The budget originally started around $75 million, then after discussions, we went down to $45 million…then $40 million, then 30 and, then don’t go over, as a result of that, to protect your plans from falling into chaos we will now have to make readjustments and so on,” he said.

He said the budget now puts stakeholders in a chokehold as they’ll be required to go back to the drawing board.

“When the position should have been, this is what we’re working with from the beginning. I was not comfortable with the way things were done and I am hoping that this is a practice that will not be continued,” King expressed.

There are three Carnival Mas shows estimated at a cost of $3 million, including prizes and payments for both workers and performers.

Gabriel said she was shocked by the social media criticisms over the proposed budget.

“In 2021 we did nothing. We did not have vaccinations and quite frankly, I agreed with us having no Carnival in 2021 but 2022 we have vaccination. The same people who make noise right now on social media who screaming the loudest, screamed at us in 2021 for doing nothing,” according to her.

She believes the social media backlash pressured the government into reducing the budget.

“I do believe it had a bearing on what happened but it’s unfortunate that the Mas man and woman and artiste would have to suffer because of that reaction on social media,” Gabriel stated.

The show must go on, according to the stakeholders, who urged corporate entities to help serve a ‘Taste of Carnival’ to the citizens.

“If adjustments could be made to facilitate us in a fast time, that is the only way we could get through with this project that is set to kick-off,” King suggested.

The first show – a virtual Calypso Tent – took place last night.

“We are doing everything possible to meet the shortfall and they will not suffer in any way. I urge them all who are building costumes not to worry that we are going to make sure that what the expectation is, is met,” Gabriel assured.

Guardian Media attempted to contact NCC Chairman, Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters, to find out whether adjustments will be made to the line-up of shows. However, our calls went unanswered and there have been no responses to our messages up to press time. Guardian Media understands that a meeting among stakeholders is expected to take place soon.

As preparations continue, Peters along with other NCC executive members met yesterday with acting Commissioner of Police, McDonald Jacob, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Joanne Archie, and other senior Trinidad and Tobago Police officials at Carnival City, Queen’s Park Savannah.

As part of the visit, the NCC and the TTPS toured the facilities.

They also agreed to work together in looking after the safety of all Carnival City patrons. The first show at that location will be on February 14th, 2022.