Despite the continued fall in oil prices, masqueraders and partygoers are not refraining from spending for the 2015 Carnival. As a matter of fact, bandleaders and fete promoters are predicting a bumper Carnival, as the sale of costumes and tickets for all-inclusive and general fetes have been selling out. In the face of cutbacks at all government ministries, economist Dr Roger Hosein is urging carnival lovers to spend wisely and consider cutting expenses, as they enjoy the revelry in the coming weeks.
Promoter of Soca Chutney Monarch and Girlz Gone White, George Singh, said the public had not yet felt the impact of the international oil prices, which fell below US$50 a barrel in January. "Party lovers have been planning and putting aside money for their tickets months in advance...way before oil prices started to drop. So it is not really affecting their pockets. They are enjoying Carnival as normal from what I heard. In my opinion, this is going to be a great Carnival."
Singh said if the price of oil continued to tumble, Carnival 2016 might be affected. Another promoter, Cliff Harris who organises Army Fete, said if oil prices continued to decline, citizens could be affected. But for now, Harris said, people have been attending parties and fetes as usual. "It has become part of our culture." As it stood, Harris said, it cost a party goer upward of $600 to attend an all-inclusive fete.
For a couple, it would cost in excess of $2,000. "After spending that kind of money on tickets, a new outfit, shoes and to style your hair in a salon, how many fetes can an average couple attend? They might just have to settle for one party because they would have to watch their spending. But this would not stop them from enjoying Carnival."
'Party goers will attend selective fetes' Dexter Charles of Island People, which promotes popular fetes like Insomnia and Girl Power, said party goers might be a little more selective in the fetes they attended. "They may not be adventurous to try new ones, not knowing what to expect.
They would attend parties that worked in the past." Charles said Carnival had become a staple in a Trini's diet and people would still party and enjoy themselves to the max, even though it meant scaling down the number of events they attended this Carnival. "This is going to be a short, sweet Carnival," Charles said. Charles said he expected his events to be well-attended. "We are expecting thousands of people." Tribe operations not affected.
Rhiannon Pemberton, group manager of large band Tribe, admitted that the dip in oil prices had in no way affected the operations at their mas camp. Pemberton said the band's 13 sections were sold out within weeks after it was launched last July.
The band has a following of close to 2,000 masqueraders
Tribe will showcase its 2015 presentation Wings of Desire. "It does not seem to be affecting us for the upcoming Carnival. Tribe has not had cancellations...anything more than the normal. People have already begun paying off for their costumes. So we don't see it having a huge impact for 2015."
However, Pemberton said, if the dip in oil prices persisted "this is something we would definitely have to monitor and make plans for in 2016." The prices of Tribe's costumes range in excess of $3,000 up to $9,995.
Big Mike: Trinidadians not studying oil prices
Bandleader of Legacy, Big Mike Antoine, said he did not see any disruptions for Carnival. "Trinidadians are not studying oil prices at this point in time." Antoine said no one had informed the country to tighten its belt. "As far as I know all is well. The country is not panicking in any way." Antoine said if oil prices continued to decline, it could affect next year's Carnival. "Right now, it is too early to tell.
But this year, people are still spending their money because they have already worked out their budgets and events they would be attending." Legacy will showcase 12 sections which will cater for between 1,500 and 2,000 masqueraders. Four of the 12 sections have already been sold out. Antoine was optimistic that the remaining eight sections "would sell out" in the next few days.
Kalicharan: High demand for costumes Aaron Kalicharan, assistant bandleader for Kalicharan Carnival, said he initially thought that the slash in oil prices would affect their costume sales, but he was wrong. From Boxing Day, Kalicharan said, the band saw an influx of masqueraders paying and registering for costumes. "This oil thing has not disrupted our carnival sales. We don't know what will happen next year, but we are keeping a positive attitude that all will go well with the economy."
This year, Kalicharan will grace the streets with eight sections, three of which will be all-inclusive. "Our average costume is $1,500. The all-inclusive sections are priced between $2,600 to $2,800. We are seeing a positive feedback. I think if the oil prices continue to dip it would affect Carnival to a point, in that, party-goers will attend less fetes. But people will still want to play their mas and free up themselves. This will be a bumper Carnival," Kalicharan said.
Hosein: Consider cutting expenses Hosein said even though some people continued to spend freely, the rest of the economy was yet to feel the pinch of the impact. "While export and government revenues have taken a hit with the falling oil prices, the rest of the economy is faced with a time lag. People are doing business as usual and they are spending as usual. This would likely change in the coming four to six months if the price of oil remains at US$40 a barrel."
Hosein said if the price of oil were to climb to US$80 by this September "all the lessons that we should have learned from the fall in the price of oil we would have lost because everything would go back to normal." If, however, oil prices remained lower than US$50 a barrel for 2015, Hosein said, "then in 2016 bandleaders would have no choice but to use cheaper materials for costumes, while promoters may have to look at renting venues that are less expensive to cut costs."
For this Carnival, Hosein said,"People should consider car pooling and cooler sharing a bit more to get the same basic level of revelry, but with a lower level of expenditure."