By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Minister of Tourism yesterday backed the privatisation of Junkanoo Carnival, adding that the Government would be able to regain its near-$20 million initial investment over time.
Obie Wilchcombe said: “I have recommended, and it is my view, that Carnival ought to be privatised. We have proven over the last two years that it does have traction.
“What we should be doing is privatising it and allowing for a private operator to fund it, but pay the Government a franchise fee and allow the Government over a period of time to collect what it has invested.”
Mr Wilchcombe added: “It is a major event which can have a major contribution to the economy and can grow. I think the money we have spent in the past, we should spend some of that now on the refurbishment of the Dundas and the National Centre for Performing Arts, and creating new programmes that will assist the arts.”
The Bahamas National Festival Commission’s (BNFC) chairman, Paul Major, said last September that the privatisation of the event has always been the “ultimate objective”. The Free National Movement (FNM) has also pledged to privatise Jiunkanoo Carnival if elected.
The Christie administration’s subsidy to the event over the inaugural two years has been almost $20 million, with $11.3 million and $8.1 million spent in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
The Festival Commission’s analysis came up with figures showing the 2016 Carnival had a ‘direct economic impact’ of $17.795 million, which was then ‘multiplied by four’ to derive the $70 million overall GDP impact.
The figures also revealed that, in return for its $8.111 million subsidy, the Government received $6.347 million in tax revenue - meaning it had to spend $1.28 for every $1 it earned. Ultimately, it suffered a near $1.8 million ‘loss’.
The number of vendor employees benefiting from Junkanoo Carnival dropped by almost two-thirds - from 1,200 to 402 - due to the redesigned Cultural Village that cut vendor numbers.
As for tourist arrivals, the data suggests that Junkanoo Carnival’s impact was in the hundreds, rather than the thousands. While May 2016 air arrivals to Nassau/Paradise Island were up 6 per cent year-over-year, the Commission’s data showed an 11.5 per cent increase for Carnival weekend, with 12,006 compared to 10,767 the year before.
On Grand Bahama, while air arrivals were down 20 per cent for May, the Festival Commission said there was a 65 per cent jump on Carnival weekend - although the gross rise was less than 800 persons. Some 14,799 Carnival attendees, or 24 per cent, out of the total 60,700 were said to have been tourists. Visitors accounted for one out of three attendees on Grand Bahama.