By anguillian July 25, 2016 15:28


Festival Chairman,  Mr. John Benjamin QC

Festival Chairman, Mr. John Benjamin QC

“Just imagine what Anguilla would be like in August without carnival – and that’s something we don’t want.” That statement was made on June 10, 2016, when, at the launch of the annual event, the Minister of Social Development, Mr. Evans McNiel Rogers, dispelled rumours that there would not be any Anguilla Summer Festival due to a lack of money.
Now, Mr. John Benjamin, QC, Chairman of the Festival Committee, has not only confirmed what is currently an obvious and much-promoted event, from July 28 to August 6, but that the cost is most certainly expected to move beyond the usual budgetary provision of EC$890,000 to between EC$1.2 and EC$1.5 million. This, in fact, was the suggested figure needed to finance the festival since some years back. The question is: Where will the additional money come from and when? The answer is that there is likely to be a post allocation from the Government’s receipts of departure taxes and other revenue sources as a result of the influx of visitors for the popular touristic festival. It is understood that this is not an unusual occurrence because, up to now, Government still owes a number of persons for previous carnival services and the money to pay them has to come from somewhere – even after the event has long gone.

“At one point it didn’t look like we would be having a Summer Festival this year because of the financial situation,” Mr. Benjamin told The Anguillian this week. “This was due to the whole dilemma we were having with the banks and the whole question of cash flow with the Government of Anguilla. The members of Government [however] made a promise of an allocation of close to nine hundred thousand dollars. From that sum, there were debts to pay in 2015 of close to four hundred thousand dollars accounting for about half of the funding. That came from a background where [since the time of Rodney Rey], we have been telling Government that at least 1.2 to 1.5 million EC dollars would be needed to run the festival properly – and to stop the recurring debt – but nobody has taken that on, up to now; so we will forever have this recurring debt if we don’t make the proper adjustments.

“Despite that, thanks to people like the Permanent Secretary, Chanelle Petty Barrett, and Brent Romney, Director of Youth and Culture, who worked diligently to ensure that we get some funds. We also got funding from the Heineken people for the boat-racing and various companies like FLOW, DIGICEL and Tropical Flower to fund other activities. Without the private sector, it would have been difficult to start the summer festival – and we didn’t know about the funding until very late because we were overshadowed by the banking crisis and other issues.”

Mr. Benjamin continued: “Nonetheless, we have overcome that and are now moving forward. The pre-carnival activities will start soon and that will give a different atmosphere to the whole festival. Unfortunately, we still have some of our people with certain negativities, and it seems that we strive on negativities. I am hoping that we will be able to see the benefits of the summer festival to the economy and not just as a drain on the economy. The festival brings in money to the coffers of the Government in terms of departure tax and other revenue. If you were to talk to the people who are actually in the know, like the Head of the Customs Department and personnel at the Port Authority, they will tell you the benefits of the summer festival. The Statistics Department showed that 19,000 people came to Anguilla last year. If that is not a benefit, what else is? I am just hoping that we will see Anguilla in a positive light and that we will work together. I can go back three years when Harris Richardson (Mr. Kool) and I worked together – he with boat-racing, and I with the summer festival – but people don’t remember that. I recall that every January Sir Emile Gumbs would call me saying August is coming again and you need to raise funds for boat-racing. Harris and I would go to St. Maarten and talk with the Mount Gay people and others to get funding for boat-racing, but that has not happened for a while.”

Mr. Benjamin not only expressed gratitude to the Permanent Secretary and the Director of Youth and Culture, for ensuring that money is available for this year’s summer festival, but others as well. Top of the list are the Chief Minister, all the other Ministers, and the Parliamentary Secretary, “for working hard to ensure that we have a summer festival.” He added: “Most of the money comes in after the festival so it really has to be subsidised afterwards – but then there are so many other things competing for money from the Consolidated Fund and I don’t think, over the years, that we have set aside enough funding for the summer festival.”

Mr. Benjamin was pleased that the Port Authority in Anguilla had made available EC$50,000 for the national sport this year, but noted that the money was donated to the West End Committee to finance the August Thursday boat race at Meads Bay where that event – a big occasion many years ago – is now being passionately revived.

Things are likely to improve later on in terms of raising sponsorships for the various summer festival activities – a matter on which Mr. Benjamin also spoke. “Next year, if everything goes as planned, we are going to have a Foundation which, according to the Attorney General’s Chambers, should be ready to put in place in January 2017,” he disclosed. “The Foundation would help in raising funds for all festivals and it would also help to market the events locally and internationally. Hopefully, some of the issues now facing the sponsorship of boat-racing, for the main events in August, would be sorted out early in advance rather than not so late. This is something that Fitzroy Tomlinson and I have been working on and that is the reason we had a Festival Office. It was geared towards creating a Festival Foundation. However, that did not work out because changes were made, but now we have gone back to the idea and it is something I like to see happening.”

By anguillian July 25, 2016 15:28


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