By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
TOURISM Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday hit back at FNM Deputy Leader Peter Turnquest for suggesting that this year’s Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival will be another “big party but economic failure”.
Mr Wilchcombe pledged that the success of this year’s carnival will be “predicated on the lessons learned from the launch carnival”.
Mr Wilchcombe condemned Mr Turnquest for “always finding ways to criticise” rather than provide “some recommendation on how (carnival) can be improved and enhanced.” He said while last year’s inaugural Junkanoo Carnival did not reap the expected returns, this year’s event will be “much more structured, much more budgeted” and constructed in such a way to guarantee a solid return on investment.
However, Mr Wilchcombe could not say whether the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) has met to begin planning for the upcoming event.
However, he conceded that officials would be seeking to spend less on this year’s carnival, as well as address other glaring flaws with the event’s pre-planning and organisation.
Last month, Mr Turnquest said given the net loss from last year’s carnival, it would be “unthinkable” for the Christie administration to “even contemplate taking on this massive undertaking again without proper planning, clear financial goals and controls, structure and organisation.”
The government originally budgeted $9m for the festival, however costs later ballooned to $11.3m. The government reaped $8.3m in combined direct and tax revenues, with the latter providing $6.7m of that sum.
The direct revenue, which totalled $1.6m, largely came from ticket sales and cash sponsorships, organisers said last year.
Mr Turnquest said this year’s events would likely be the “portends of another fiscal failure”.
When contacted yesterday, however, Mr Wilchcombe slammed Mr Turnquest for being a part of an organisation that has “mastered criticising everything, and not appreciating all of the things The Bahamas still needs”.
“At the end of the day, the country doesn’t have a party with no returns,” Mr Wilchcombe said. “When you make an investment or invest in any situation, there’s a period of time that you must allow it to grow. The event was a success and all that we can look at – the return, the response – the people obviously had an interest. There’s many things that can be done (to better the product).
“But as opposed to (being) negative what he ought to be doing is providing some recommendation on how it can be improved and enhanced.”
Mr Wilchcombe went on to acknowledged the shortfalls in last year’s Junkanoo Carnival, such as the need for “greater and more participation of Bahamian artists,” as well as “concentrated marketing in and outside of The Bahamas”.
Nonetheless, Mr Wilchcombe insisted on the economic significance of the festival, adding that The Bahamas must put more signature events on its annual calendar that must appeal to Bahamians and subsequently “spread out to potential visitors”.
“You have to understand that we have to create more quality products, and quality products have to do with some of the events that you stage. Any one of which has potential, can be upstanding in showcasing the unique culture of The Bahamas, and mixing it with a known brand of carnival, and that is of course our Junkanoo, together with entertainment, we provide a special brand of carnival.
“And when you find something that you can do, what you ought to do is working on enhancing, not always finding ways in which you can criticise.”
The BNFC faced strong criticism last year for going over-budget and a lack of proper planning.
In April of last year, Mr Major predicted Bahamas Junkanoo would generate a profit by its third year, with the economic impact increasing 20.5 per cent over the inaugural 2015 event.