FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest.
By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest said should the FNM be elected to office following the 2017 general election, the party would “definitely” review the benefits attached to Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival.
While he did not specifically say that the FNM would cancel the event, he told The Tribune that as it stands, the evidence of its success “doesn’t seem to lend itself to further support” from the FNM.
He further questioned how much less did the government spend on the second instalment of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival, while insisting that the country could not afford to continue to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on an event that does not support the continuity of the Bahamas’ cultural identity. The event was held more three months ago from May 5 to 7 in Nassau and in Grand Bahama from April 15-16.
The East Grand Bahama MP was responding to Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe who confirmed to The Tribune on Sunday that the government spent “much less” on this year’s event. However, he declined to reveal whether the annual festival, in its second year, managed to “break even”.
Mr Turnquest asked: “How much is less and does it matter? Did we make money or did we piss away millions again?”
“How long does it take to produce one report? Carnival was held more than three months ago, which also brings me to ask where is the previous one and why hasn’t it been released?
“At the end of the day either they are trying to massage the numbers to make it appear to be something else or they aren’t equipped to do one report. Just present the report.”
Asked whether the FNM would move to cancel carnival festivities should the party defeat the governing Progressive Liberal Party in 2017, Mr Turnquest said the party is on record as saying they would only support culturally rich initiatives.
“We will definitely look at whether it was a lucrative exercise culturally and economically. So far the evidence doesn’t seem to be lending itself to further support from us. But certainly we would support a culturally rich festival.”
In an interview with The Tribune on Sunday, Mr Wilchcombe pushed back against concerns that the government was trying to bury the event’s economic impact report, which was completed last month, but has not been released.
According to the minister, the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) has already briefed Prime Minister Perry Christie on the report. He explained that officials were still putting the finishing touches on their presentation to the media.
“We can’t bury a report,” he said, “it will not be buried. It did much better than last year in terms of the production - we maintained the same high quality production.
“We spent much less than we did last year. I’m not going to get into all of that because it should really come from the commission and it would be against protocol.”
Mr Wilchcombe added: “They want to ensure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted. They have briefed the prime minister, myself and the minister responsible for sports. They intend to make a formal presentation to the media, and it’s very detailed and so they want to make sure all questions can be answered because there was so much involved, all the entertainers, logistics.
“It is absolutely not being buried.”
Last year, the BNFC released its report on July 28 – just under three months since the Nassau festival closed on May 9.
The government spent $11.3 million - $2.3 million over budget - on the inaugural festival, which attracted about 115,000 spectators or participants, employed 7,208 people and benefited 880 small and medium enterprises.
It “gained” $8.3 million in combined direct and tax revenues, with the latter providing $6.7 million of that sum. The direct revenue, which totalled $1.6 million, largely came from ticket sales and cash sponsorships, organisers said.