THE Bahamas National Festival Commission has clarified controversial statements from its chairman, Paul Major, who on Tuesday told reporters that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival was never designed to be a “profit exercise,” stressing that it is focused on reducing government investment and increasing revenue.
A statement released by the BNFC yesterday said the commission’s mandate “has always been to significantly and positively impact” the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“The nuance between profitability and GDP might sound trite, like a play on words, but the commission would like to assure the public that there is a real difference between the two objectives and it is not a matter of semantics,” the statement said.
“Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is absolutely an economic stimulus exercise, and it must have a positive economic impact for it to be justified. This is why the commission’s mandate from the government has always been to stimulate small and medium enterprises; to create year round employment in the cultural sector; and to positively impact GDP.
“The economic plan that was approved by the government in 2015 first introduced this mandate and it has never changed. In each post-event report that was presented to the government and to the media, the commission accounted for its performance on the basis of the mandate.”
The commission said it is steadily moving to achieving these goal posts, noting that the GDP impact of the festival for 2016 was $70m by its estimates.
The BNFC added that the festival engaged 278 small and medium businesses while “dozens” of new ones were created.
“Further, the data clearly supports the fact that there was a material increase in the number of tourists at the events this year compared to last year,” the BNFC said.
“Despite how alarming it sounds, the commission’s position that Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival “is not a profit exercise” was never intended to suggest that it is not an economic exercise. The commission remains committed to reducing the government’s subsidy year over year, by improving efficiencies, privatising elements of the festival and increasing revenue.
“The commission generated $1.2 million in direct revenue from ticket sales and sponsorship this year to offset the government’s investment. And it reduced the government’s contribution by $4.99 million (38 per cent). Its larger economic goal, however, is to help privately owned small and medium sized businesses to become profitable.”
The BNFC added that the government’s direct return on its investment comes in the form of taxes, increased GDP and ultimate economic growth.
“The 2016 event generated $6.3 million in estimated tax revenue,” the BNFC said. “The indirect return on investment, which is the more significant and important measurement of success, accrues to the thousands of employees and Bahamian business owners connected to Junkanoo Carnival.”
The BNFC has come under fire after finally revealing the figures associated with the second instalment of carnival, with some critics calling for planning for the next event to be suspended until a better financial plan could be implemented.
On Monday, officials revealed the total cost for this year’s carnival event was $9.8m with a government subsidy of $8.1m.
A day later, when pressed by reporters over the financial implications of the annual event, Mr Major condemned opponents of the festival who continue to look at the country’s annual investment, instead of the carnival’s “economic impact”.
He said the festival was never and will never be about turning a profit on investment, explaining that no variation of carnival hosted around the world has generated a profit for its host nation.
“Nowhere in the world is a carnival a profit venture. In Trinidad they spend, I think we estimated somewhere around, based on the conversion, $40m a year,” Mr Major said on Tuesday.
He claimed the success of such a festival must be measured by the thousands of persons that benefit from it indirectly and the economic benefits stimulated by it.
Yesterday, the BNFC said it is committed to full transparency, adding that its 2015 independent audit will be completed next month while it has already commissioned an audit for the 2016 carnival.