The Ministries of Arts and Multiculturalism and National Diversity and Social Integration were collectively allocated more than $354 million in the 2013 national budget read by Finance Minister Larry Howai on Monday. While Howai’s budget statement included initiatives for diversifying the economy through the expansion of “priority sectors” including creative arts, the tax incentives he announced related only to the film and fashion industry. Some practitioners of other arts, such as drama and dance, feel the allocations for the arts are inequitable. Torrance Mohammed, choreographer, founding member of the National Dance Association of T&T (NDA) and the San Fernando Arts Council, said most of Government’s funding goes to large bodies such as the Trinidad Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), the National Carnival Commission and PanTrinbago.
“I have no problem with pan and calypso, but when you look at the way they allocate money, there are problems with management and supervision. There is never equity of distribution among artists,” he told the T&T Guardian in a telephone interview.
Mohammed said the council receives $30,000 a year in government funding, which goes towards the National Junior Arts Festival (SanFest) in addition to year-round community programming. He said this amount should be weighed against competitions like the Independence Calypso Monarch, where the first prize was $500,000 and other finalists were awarded $50,000 each. When he was president of the NDA, government funding amounted to $130,000 a year, Mohammed pointed out.
Still, public support for various artforms may influence where Government spends the most money, according to playwright and drama teacher Zeno Obi Constance. “Arts are a priority, because it’s cultural and sporting things that keep us straight and sane. At the same time, it’s not so much how much money Government puts into the arts, but the interest people have in it in the first place. They could spend how much money they want on it but if people are not serious about arts then it will amount to nothing,” he said. Constance’s drama group, Fyzabad Drama Connection, puts on productions mainly in the community arena without corporate or government sponsorship. Constance said the group does not actively seek sponsors, though last year he received a Unesco grant to produce a musical about the life of Dr Eric Williams. The market for drama and dance has changed drastically, says Mohammed. “People just look for cheap comedies to go to now. When they come to the (Naparima) Bowl they sell out, but if a tragedy or social commentary, a serious drama was on, only a few come.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism Desdra Bascombe said details of allocations were not yet available. However, she said the ministry’s pre-budget proposals to the Ministry of Finance were the same as last year’s except for a request to increase expenditure. Bascombe was not able to provide details of the proposal. Arts and Multiculturalism is the line ministry for NCC, PanTrinbago and TUCO. In June, oversight of the National Museum, National Trust and Archives were transferred to National Diversity and Social Integration. National Diversity Minister Clifton de Coteau could not be reached for comment. PanTrinbago president Keith Diaz said he supported all incentives to expand the creative industries but admitted that “it’s not so easy” to get funding for programmes from the Government. He said he does not believe the Government should fund arts organisations 100 per cent, but work in partnership with them and corporate sponsors. Diaz said PanTrinbago presented the ministry with a working budget of $56 million for 2013, which would cover Panorama and year-round events. He added that PanTrinbago was working towards becoming self-sufficient and not depending on the Government.