Amendments that are made to the Spicemas Corporation Act, 2011 are sending negative signals in the direction of the Labour representative in the senate, Raymond Roberts as he said it may stifle entrepreneurship during the carnival season.
Senator Roberts offered comments on the amendments at the sitting of the Upper House at the Trade Centre last Wednesday as the Spicemas Corporation Amendment Bill 2017 was tabled.
Presenting the B)ill was Minister of Culture and Heritage, Senator Brenda Hood, as she outlined a specific license that must be obtained by persons wishing to hold an activity during the festivities.
One of the clauses in the bill says that a person shall not hold an activity in an area declared to be the location for carnival festivals and activities operated by the Spicemas Corporation (SMC) unless the person obtains a license from the board to do so.
According to Hood, if this is not complied with, an individual can be fined or imprisoned.
“A person who promotes or conducts any carnival activity in contravention of subsection one which I spoke about is liable to a fine in the amount of 40% of the proceeds of the carnival festival payable to the corporation…no later than seven days after the conclusion of the carnival festival or activity. This is here not because we want money from people, what we want them to do is comply…if they comply, there’s no money for the corporation in this regard, because they would have complied.
“…Where a person contravenes subsection nine and fails to pay the fine within the specified time, he commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or imprisonment not excluding one year…” she explained.
Labour representative in the Senate, Senator Raymond Roberts agreed to persons obtaining a license to hold carnival activities but was not in support of the fine for not complying.
This he said is not encouragement to young business persons.
“I quite agree there that there has to be a license…it says not exceeding $50,000.00 so you can be charged $10, 00.00, $5000 etc but that in itself is frightening because Mr. President you have to take into account, entrepreneurs staging these carnival activities are not guaranteed success, it’s a risk. Investment in carnival and things like that is a huge risk… I would think yes you have to have a license but the numbers here $50,000, it says a lot and we have to take into account the possibility of a show of this nature not being successful and upon that also, we talk about 5% of the intake I suppose it’s on the gross being paid to Spicemas.
“…I am saying that on the outset Spicemas must be paid something, they are the organisers, they are the government authority so there must be some kind of tax or whatever you wanna call it so that revenue can flow; but, 5% now again of the gross, what about if that show fails…I know it is your risk and you went into it but we want to encourage the growth of carnival in Grenada so we must value that. There is also VAT. I would assume VAT comes into that, so you have the government VAT to pay and then you have 5% on your gross to pay to Spicemas Corporation (SMC). I don’t know if that is the greatest incentive to encourage young people or people in general to invest in Carnival,” Roberts said.
The Culture Minister explained that this direction is being taken so as to have the SMC operated as a business.
She explained to the senate last Wednesday as shequoted figures to show that for the years the SMC and Carnival on a whole has been operating at a loss.
“We have been operating at a loss; e.g. Pan – pan I love, it’s part of our culture, it’s important that we make sure it continues and that we give all the support that is necessary to make sure that that pan industry grows from strength to strength.”
“However, we have seen that it has been not what it should be and this is a very serious concern for us. In 2016, the total income and that would be gate receipts and stuff like that was $24,435…the total expenditure which includes prize monies was $367,382 and this was a deficit of $342,947…this is very sad that in this day and age we have an event as pan and it is very difficult, people are not coming out to the event and it is just something that is wrong. We are trying to work with the pan association to see what can be done. It must be done differently…” she said.
The prize monies that we pay out to pan, she said is $243,000.
She pointed to Dimarche Gras as being two of the events of Spicemas that has been losing support over the years and is trying its hardest to break even over the years.
“In 2016, the income for Dimarche Gras was $57,968 and those are gate receipts and remember in 2016, we felt that we had to put a halt on the number of complementary tickets that we give out because this is how you are not making the revenue because everybody wants to come in for free…You can’t run an organization like this because you have expenses and who is going to pay it. The prize monies and appearance fees was $175,000…the total expenditure for last (year) was $265,969 and so there was a loss again of $208, 002,” she stated.
This amendment to the bill, Senator Hood said, should put a spin on things and see some profit coming into Spicemas after each season.