Senate gets details of SMC financial plight

The Spicemas Corporation (SMC) is finding it difficult to clear off the debt it has owing to stakeholders.

This was relayed to the Upper House of Parliament last week Wednesday by Culture Minister, Senator Brenda Hood as she tabled the Spicemas Corporation Amendment Bill 2017.

Sen. Hood said Spicemas continues to have a very large deficit, and it has tried over the years to pay off some of the debts.

The senior government minister spent some time informing fellow Senators about some of the expenses.

She said that in 2012 the gate receipt of Spicemas was a little over $524,000, in 2013 the gate receipt was a little over $464,000, in 2014 it was $529,456.58, in 2015 it rose to a little over $611,000, and in 2016 the gate receipt was $780,221.26.

However, Sen. Hood indicated that despite this, Spicemas was operating at a loss and singled out Panorama as a financial problem.

According to her, in 2016 pan brought in a total income of $24,435, with an expenditure inclusive of prize money of $376,382.

The Culture Minister reported that the prize money paid out for pan is $243,000.

She also told the Senate that some attention needs to be paid to Dimanche Gras in terms of bringing back the large crowds like in previous years.

Sen. Hood disclosed that the subvention Spicemas receives from government is $700,000.

She informed the Senate that the amendment to the SMC Bill is to make sure that events are managed properly, thereby giving the corporation the authority to coordinate all carnival festivals and activities.

She stated that the amendment is also intended to revive the composition of the SMC Board, to provide for conformity with the Public Finance Management Act, and to provide for the effective coordination with the Grenada Cultural Foundation.

Carnival period commences on the date of the launch of carnival and ends on the Sunday after the second Tuesday in August.

Carnival was launched last Saturday.

Sen. Hood in presenting the Bill also provided details about penalties designed for promoters who may fall victims to the amendment.

A person who promotes or conducts any carnival festival or activity in contravention with the amended Bill is liable to a fine of forty percent of the proceeds which is payable to the Corporation no later than seven days after the conclusion of the festival or activity.

Should the person fail to pay the fine within the specified time, he commits an offense and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding $50,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding one year.

Two of the opposition Senators who contributed to the debate had differing views on the penalty offenders should face if they violate the new rules.

Labour Representative, Sen. Raymond Roberts said the fine that an offender is likely to face is frightening.

He said the entrepreneurs are not guaranteed success with their carnival activity.

“Investment in carnival… is a huge risk,” he remarked.

The Labour Representative chided certain changes to the Bill and expressed the view that some of what is contained in the amendment could stifle creativity and entrepreneurship in carnival.

He agreed that SMC which is the chief organiser of carnival must be paid something so that revenue can flow, but felt that the forty percent of the proceeds could negatively impact the growth of carnival.

However, Sen. Christopher DeAllie who represents the Private Sector told the Upper House he does not see the quantum for penalties as an issue, while acknowledging the concerns raised by the Senator for Labour.

Sen. DeAllie said the presiding Magistrate has the authority to dish out whatever fine, but not exceeding the stated $50,000.

He felt that there must be a penalty to deter people from not wanting to follow the right policies and procedures as set out to give the SMC the flexibility to do the things they ought to do.

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