Managing Director at Hot 97.1 FM and promoter Luke Boyea says that private promoters should not be made to carry the burden of the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC).
Boyea’s comments come on the heels of a suggestion made by general secretary of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) and Minister of Transport and Works Senator Julian Francis that a system should be implimented in which private promoters are asked to pay a licensing fee to host parties during Vincy Mas.
His argument is that the CDC is given approximately EC$2.2 million of the government’s money to fund Vincy Mas and that the carnival platform created by the CDC is then used by private promoters to throw sometimes sold-out fetes, with gate fees as high as EC$350.
But Boyea is in total disagreement with Francis and thinks that the government minister is wrongfully targeting promoters, stating that many persons and businesses benefit from the carnival platform and private promoters already pay huge taxes.
“Francis made a proposal advocating that the local promoters alone pay an additional Carnival tax to the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, piled onto the 16 per cent VAT we pay, the 35 per cent Corporate Tax we pay, the 20 per cent Withholding Tax incurred (if artistes or DJs are brought in from overseas), as well as the Entertainment Tax imposed on foreign artistes/DJs, this, we also pay!” Boyea wrote in an email to SEARCHLIGHT.
Boyea added that most of the venues used during carnival to throw fetes are owned by the State, and significant rental fees are paid for these venues, as well as mandatory security fees to the police.
“… just the private promoters. Imagine that!” wrote Boyea, who added that it is being suggested that a carnival tax be paid by local promoters, while restaurants, liquor and beer companies, hotels, gas stations, car rental companies, sound and lighting companies, supermarkets, airlines and vendors, all benefit from Carnival.
“Interestingly, we are the only ones being targeted with this unjustified proposed additional government tax, which effectively is aimed at putting a band aid on the CDC’s carnival failures and giving the government yet another pass.”
Boyea thinks that if the CDC cannot successfully execute carnival, the government should consider selling CDC events to private promoters, who can turn the events around.
He said also that the government should consider installing a qualified board that can guide CDC events into profitability, or the CDC should cancel events.
“…and if the expenditures are simply not recoverable through gate receipts, sponsorship, etc., then we must deem them of peculiar interest to the State alone and therefore they must be willing to fund directly,” said Boyea.
The radio talk show host said that he hopes the government does not sanction what he describes as Francis’ “irresponsible rhetoric” and the minister should question the efficacy of the CDC and not think to penalize promoters for their hard work and risk taking.
“On the other hand, however, the State on the promise of a few jobs, gives foreign investors untold benefits… they even rebuilt the airport in Canouan for foreign investors. All for jobs. We don’t complain, we don’t impose new taxes on them to compensate the State for our investment, in fact, we go the opposite way and remove taxes to lessen their burden.”
“But not for locals. We are the donkeys that must take risks, break our backs, lose our money so that we can afford to give the foreigners the tax relief they deserve. Julian is this what you would call post-colonial?” asked Boyea.
Boyea said that Francis sees carnival as a function of the CDC and hence has the mistaken belief that CDC is carnival.
“CDC is not carnival.
Its function is to manage and develop carnival. That is, bring some order to what may otherwise well be chaos,” said Boyea, who added, “Carnival first and foremost is an emotion, an expression of our soul, a period to free up, the CDC does not control this, this emotion will find a way of release one way or the other. The tangible expression of these emotions would proceed just fine with very little input from the State, the public is already willing to finance them.”
Boyea added that many private promotions fail massively and the handful that have caught the public’s imagination have encountered substantial losses along the way.
“The carnival period offers no guarantee of success, the CDC knows this better than anyone. Private promoters make a significant contribution to the whole carnival product adding additional economic activity which the whole country benefits from, so what is your real gripe?” Boyea asked.