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Will carnival survive?

Published: Jul 22, 2017

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The Free National Movement (FNM) under Dr. Hubert Minnis has been consistent with its position on Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival for some time. Rather than spending the tens of millions the Christie administration did on the festival, Minnis has said his government would privatize it.

The FNM, now in power, seems ready to do just that.

The inaugural carnival in 2015 cost the Christie administration $12.9 million. The Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) reported that the 2016 carnival cost $9.8 million, of which $8.1 million was subsidized by the government.

The BNFC has not yet reported on 2017 carnival costs.

“Mr. Speaker, we do intend to facilitate the process where carnival can be privatized,” said Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard during the 2017/2018 budget debate in the House of Assembly.

“And I challenge those powerful voices that talked about the importance of carnival and how Junkanoo in many ways had fallen short, and how this business model was going to correct it, I challenge them with the greatest respect... If they were so confident that carnival has the potential to do what they told us for three years it could do, we are inviting them to take it over and invest their money, along with all the private funding they may be able to attract.

“Take it over and invest your money as a demonstration of your conviction that your model made perfect sense.”

The Bahamas has a vibrant calendar of cultural events. There is nothing wrong with carnival. What is problematic is when a government thinks it should spend more than $30 million on a street party when all public schools do not have libraries with books and computers; the roads are filled with potholes; the electricity goes out all the time; men in the maximum security wing of the prison still use slop buckets; the traffic light network in New Providence needs replacing, etc.

There are so many missing basics in our country, yet the then governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) wanted to spend tens of millions of dollars partying.

The FNM could extend a small, reasonable subsidy to a privatized carnival in the manner that the government extends subsidies to other festivals. It would then be for carnival’s new organizers to find a model that is cost-effective.

The mismanagement of The Bahamas by the PLP has led the country to the brink of crisis. The new government had to borrow $722 million in order to stabilize the situation.

Going forward it is important for the government to spend on what is necessary to help grow the economy and make the lives of Bahamians better. Activities such as carnival, that never became the international draw the PLP claimed, must not receive as much as before from the treasury.

People who pay for parties before buying books are not the type of people who should govern any country. The Bahamian people agreed and voted them out on May 10.

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