Million Dollar payday or bust!

Southex CEO, George Singh at recent press conference. Photo courtesy George Singh Instagram
Southex CEO, George Singh at recent press conference. Photo courtesy George Singh Instagram

‘The $1 million first prize was sponsored by the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.’ Singh said he had not received the total amount promised by the ministry and was unable to pay the artistes in full. He said all artistes in winners row were paid part of their prize money…Singh was unable to say whether Ramnarine would be paid his outstanding balance but he announced this year’s winners would receive bigger prizes than last year.’I know Cabinet has agreed to the amount in principle which was proposed. What was proposed is a bigger prize structure than last year.’
—Chutney Soca Monarch organiser George Singh in response to Raymond Ramnarine’s complaint about not being paid his full prize money in 2013.

For a while now, I have had this schizophrenic attitude towards competition(s) in the Carnival. Biologists and economists say competition is necessary for evolution and growth. Maybe. Pan evolved over all these years with the idea of competition as an undercurrent to the attitude and milieu of the pan fraternity. But what we have witnessed in time is the subtle acquiescence by live music promoters to the patronage of governments without the checks and balances that allow for a kind of growth that can become a self-supporting industry.

What happens if the government pulls out of the funding of prizes for Panorama, Soca Monarch, Chutney Soca Monarch, Calypso Monarch, et al? We heard the promises back in 2011 with a strident Kamla upping the game from $1 million to $2 million, only to see and hear that that was a one-time election gift. We have seen the destruction of the calypso tent ethos and the emasculation of Pan Trinbago by the hand of censorship and tightwad dictatorship of the PNM ministry of Culture prior to this administration. (Ask Gypsy if he could sing then in a tent as a UNC MP!)

Pan Trinbago seems to have evolved to accommodate surface enhancement of Panorama by leasing out acreage of potential audience space to corporate vendors who have turned the Greens into a playground for non-music lovers and upwardly-mobile limers. You can even splash in a pool this 2014 Panorama semis: Pan Splash!

Southex Event Management Company Limited and Caribbean Prestige Foundation continue the charade of competitions as events. Popular events though they are, the thrust of government to diversify the economy into creative industries is stymied by the unfair competition that is presented when millions of dollars are bandied about by the same government as support for the industry against the backdrop of revenue-linked corporate sponsorship that has shrunk and tax incentives that have never been realised or ascribed to in great numbers. Not even Divine Echoes could have gotten sponsorship.

Government money, even in traditional carnival events—mas, pan, calypso—has not sustained either creativity or economic viability. The largesse of million dollar prize money is an unsustainable business model that must atrophy and die.

© 2014, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

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