Brian FrancisBy Brian Francis

Under the former NDC Administration, Bloom Consulting Incorporated, a Trinidad based Research Firm, undertook a study on behalf of the Ministry of Culture entitled: Spicemas Festival Impacts: An Economic Impact Assessment of the 2011 Grenada Carnival.

Extracts from the rationale for that Study read: “The increasing recognition of carnivals and other festivals as important drivers for diversifying and expanding the Caribbean tourism sector highlights the importance of measuring the range and quantum of impact regional festivals have on their respective national economies. It has been shown that other regional festivals like the St. Lucia Jazz festival, the Trinidad Carnival, and Barbados Crop Over make a sizeable contribution to visitor arrivals, visitor expenditures, hotel occupancy rates and spill over effects on their respective cultural industries and wider national economies.

“Within this context, Grenada’s Spicemas festival has triggered growing national debate on the significance and potential impact of the festival to the Grenadian economy…As Grenada moves to celebrate its 25th year of Carnival in August, an assessment of the value and contribution of the Festival to the economy is considered timely.”

What about the essential message contained in those words could be confusing to the powers-that-be?  Don’t we as a people value the contribution of the Festival to the local economy anymore?  Is our economy now sufficiently diversified that we no longer have to rely on critical industries such as Culture to stimulate much needed growth and development? Is it the case that mediocrity has become part of our accepted norms that we tend more often than not to be blindsided by simple acts that are characteristic of poorness?

I am sure most readers of this piece would have very strong views on the questions posed above as well as on the future direction of carnival. And I would surely wish to hear those opinions.  But, as the Mighty Gabby declared in his ever-popular Boots, “Don’t tell me, tell Tommy.”

In short, I now invite all Grenadians to openly lift up their collective voices in strong condemnation of what is happening to culture in our gorgeous country and to echo sound advice aimed at saving Grenada’s carnival.

How much more should we as a decent and caring people accept? Why, for example, should we sit idly by and allow the mayhem that reined at this year’s Melody/Papitette Calypso Semi-finals to ever repeat itself?

Why is it that year after year we have to create controversies of all kinds?  While I will not comment specifically on the hullabaloo surrounding the selection of the calypso finalists because that matter is being handled by local attorneys, I can’t help but reveal my amusement over the level of nonsense I heard from some quarters in justification of the decisions made in that respect.

Amazingly, I remembered little from what I have heard. Just in case you are wondering, my brain cells are not yet dead.  I have trained myself over time to block out gobbledygook whenever I think it necessary. That makes me happy!  But, as I reflect on the content of the explanations I have read, my brain kept on reciting an old saying ascribed to Plato that: “Wise people talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.”

Here is the thing.  Over the years, Grenada has produced in part or totally many cultural icons in persons such as the Mighty Sparrow, Flying Turkey, Black Wizard, Scholar, Ajamu, David “Peck” Edwards, James Clarkson, Richardo Keens-Douglas, and Francis Urias Peters, to name but a few.

How come, therefore, the country seems to be suffering from impotence when it comes to finding the “right” people to efficiently manage, develop, promote and grow this national festival?

Being a cultural icon doesn’t mean you can manage a national festival, but at least you would have the knowledge to pass onto those charged with that responsibility, if such wisdom is sought.

To save our carnival, the medicine is simple: Do away with the appointments of political partisans to control and direct the affairs of the festival and embrace those who are in the know and are capable of contributing positively to the expansion of our major annual cultural event.

Once competent people with proven leadership and management skills as well as expertise in event planning are tasked with the responsibility to take our carnival to the heights it deserves, then, ensure that sufficient resources are made available so that the mandate handed down to those individuals can be carried out without hindrance!

Am I asking too much?  Surely not, because the study that was done in 2011 on the economic impact of that year’s carnival revealed among other things significant investments by government, corporate sponsors, and other contributors such as UNESCO to the national festival.

Above all, the benefit-to-cost ratio associated with the Spicemas Festival exceeds one (1). This means simply that Grenada is earning more from the national festival than it is investing to undertake the annual event. So let those who have eyes to see and ears to hear do so without further hiccups!

(Dr. Francis, a former Permanent Secretary in the local Ministry of Finance, is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at the Cave Hill Campus in Barbados of the University of the West Indies)

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