In the 2016 National Budget, delivered on October 5 by Finance Minister Colm Imbert, while mention was made of tourism and sport, there was nary a word on arts and entertainment.
However, culture has been addressed in the culture sub-section of the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) supplement, which states: "Local cultures will be supported and encouraged through the creation of an environment that promotes programmes that increase the commercial viability of creative enterprises. A total of $33.5m has been allocated to encourage and support the creation of a national cultural enterprise.
"Recognising the creativity of our people and the economic and social benefits of the cultural products and artistic competencies, $0.5m has been allocated to develop a strategy for cohesive tertiary level training and education in two complementary areas, namely, the core creative arts and the business arts."
With Carnival 2016 mere months away, Special Interest Groups (SIGs) as well as producers and practitioners in the arts and entertainment community are anxious about what specific allocations Government would commit to culture. Among the concerns of the arts fraternity are:
�2 the prolonged closure of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (Napa), the nation's main performing showplace;
�2 no headquarters for the steelband movement; and
�2 uncertainty of the Government's allocation to next year's Carnival.
These are the reactions of some of the major players:
TT Film Festival founder:
"There is a paragraph about creative enterprise, but it is quite miniscule; support for arts and culture was mentioned in very general terms. I didn't see any figure that was specifically mentioned for arts and entertainment. I am hoping that there will be some specific activities, that something positive will come out of it, like the fixing of Napa, and support for the creative industry across the board. I am especially interested in film so I am waiting to see what is being done in that area, especially coming out of a very successful film festival."
Lorraine Pouchet, National
Carnival Commission chairman:
"First of all, the allocation to the NCC from this budget is $262,619,248 which includes a debt servicing of $77.1m. Therefore, our operating expenses now have been decreased by 17 per cent from the previous year. In 2014-2015, we received $312m of which we had to pay back $154m in debt accrued from before. We instituted internal procurement procedures to ensure effective management of the sums allocated to the NCC. We intend moving forward to follow the same processes and procedures and to work along with our line ministry and stakeholders to find a common ground on how we will proceed. Carnival is just 122 days away and we are also celebrating the 25th anniversary of the NCC in 2016."
Dr Hollis "Chalkdust" Liverpool,
"I think that overall, the budget is a good attempt, as a stopgap [measure], to arrest the haemorrhaging of our revenue, and what seems to be a big deficit. I saw very little specific mention of the arts. This has left me with a funny feeling.
"It seems that there is still no appreciation for human living in the sense that the stability with which we live is very much based on our arts. When you have no money and you are depressed, most people turn to the arts for comfort. Therefore, Government has to have a significant say on the arts in any budget."
Wendell Manwarren, 3Canal:
"For years we have been talking about diversifying the economy. For years we have been talking about what a rich culture we have. It's time to stop talking and begin putting we money where we mouth is. My understanding is that a new entity to oversee the arts nationwide has been allocated $10m for the year. In other words, 'de party done'."
Keron "Sheriff" Thompson,
"I believe generally the budget is two sides of the line. I was told that $10m was allocated to CreativeTT. On one side of the coin, you have the administration, which must try to balance the entire nation's economy, and not specifically arts and culture. At the same time, people in the arts would focus on how the Government is helping their sector. I feel the majority of what Government allocates will go to the cash cow, which is Carnival. Ten million dollars is definitely not enough money for arts and entertainment on a national level."
Raymond Choo Kong,
"I am not surprised, as the arts are always ignored in budgets across the globe. Internationally though, subsidies for the arts are placed by governments, but not in T&T. The governments and corporations of 'First World' countries understand the importance of the arts to the development of peoples and states, and that the arts cannot sustain themselves.
"When we talk arts and culture in T&T, we only talk about pan and calypso. We don't talk about the theatre. The powers that be seem to have a misconstrued idea of the theatre, thinking it's either about sex-themed plays or family entertainment. They have no inclination that theatre is made up of myriad types of theatre and that the viability of all us is important and is based on the quality of the genre of theatre."
Lutalo "Bro Resistance" Masimba, Trinbago Unified
"I am disappointed and somewhat distressed by the fact that the budget has not addressed the question of economic diversification, with specific reference to the entertainment industry. If we are looking for new and positive revenue streams, then the entertainmentindustry presents us with the best possible options."
Keith Diaz (Pan Trinbago):
"It is a very interesting budget. Certain mention was made of culture, but I haven't seen the yellow book to know how much has been allocated to the national instrument. In a time of depression, culture has an important role to play in developing our nation, especially in terms of economics, and socially.
"Pan Trinbago is not the Pan Trinbago of yesteryear. We are now a business-driven enterprise and we have a number of projects that we would like to partner with the Government on. For instance, there's the pan lotto, the pan factory and Panvesco which is run by Clary Benn. We have not been waiting for the Government to give a handout but we have been proactive in identifying a number of business projects that we need the Government's participation in. Coming out of what the Prime Minister said, we, as an organisation, have to get up and work and strive towards self-sufficiency."
Vijay Ramlal, National Chutney Foundation of T&T:
"From the little I've seen of it, I don't find that sufficient emphasis was placed on culture or the arts. Compare what was allocated to the Betting & Levy Board to the unspecified allocation to culture. No specific allocation was mentioned for cultural organisations like Pan Trinbago, Tuco or the National Chutney Foundation of T&T–all national cultural organisations that have been incorporated via acts of Parliament and ought to be apprised of their allocation."