The seemingly endless arguments over public funding of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival were given a fresh twist this week by claims that the cash-strapped government spent more on the event than the Trinidad government spent on its carnival.
Former Assistant Commissioner of Police Paul Thompson, who was born in Trinidad but lives in Bahamas, criticised a lack of accountability in public spending on the first three events. Thompson offered to investigate the first two Junkanoo Carnivals free of charge, which brought a swift response from former Bahamas National Festival Commission chairman Paul Major. The organiser had been fully transparent and the accounts fully audited, Major insisted.
Quoted by Tribune242, Major denied that the Junkanoo Carnival had been unusually expensive. “Trinidad and Tobago Government spent over $131M over the past three years”, he said, whereas Bahamas spent $13.1M in 2015 (its first year), reducing to $8.2M in 2016 and $4M this year, totalling $25.3M.
However, a reader pointed out what Major and the newspaper had both missed: the Bahamas costs were in US dollars, whereas the Trinidad figures were in TT dollars. At current exchange rates, the three-year Trinidad Carnival spending works out to be just under US$19.5M, so significantly less.
The former BNFC chair noted that costs are higher when starting a new project. However, critics say that, unlike Trinidad Carnival, the Bahamian event has failed to attract more than a handful of overseas visitors, even though the event’s main purpose was to boost tourism. The debate continues…