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Hours after Southex chief executive officer George Singh announced the cancellation of the 2018 edition of the Chutney Soca Monarch competition, the show was tentatively put back on track after Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced a one million dollar allocation to the event.
Addressing a media conference at the Ministry of Finance yesterday evening, Imbert said statements that the ministry had withdrawn funding were incorrect and he wanted to clear up all misconceptions in relation to the funding by state agency, the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB).
He also admitted however, that there was a mix-up of numbers which led to the ministry offering the organisers $300,000 on Wednesday.
“We were told that last year the NLCB gave the competition a donation of $500,000,” Imbert said, adding that due to the economic situation Government decided to reduce the figure to $300,000.
On Thursday, the ministry was informed that the actual figure donated last year was $1.5 million and so decided to revise the offered donation to $1 million.
He said the NLCB was in between boards and so the acting executive director could not give financial approvals above a $50,000 limit. He said the director approached the ministry on Wednesday for clearance for a donation for the competition, and reports that the ministry had given any directive to completely withdraw funding were inaccurate.
In a telephone interview afterwards, Singh said while he would issue a “full” statement today regarding Imbert’s announcement, adjustments would have to be made to ensure the competition’s return. He, however, disputed Imbert’s claim that a $300,000 donation had been offered saying the amount was in fact “zero.”
The saga unfolded at a media conference yesterday morning at Southex’s Independence Avenue, San Fernando office when Singh announced that the Chutney Soca Monarch 2018 competition had been cancelled.
The launch had been scheduled to take place yesterday at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain.
Singh said the cancellation was prompted after an “urgent” meeting with the NLCB, the competition’s main cash sponsor, on Wednesday.
“Whilst there I was greeted by the CEO and informed that there was a change, a change to which he was awaiting a final decision on,” Singh said, adding, “Within a few minutes, a phone call was received by the CEO and taken outside of the said meeting.”
“A few minutes later the CEO re-entered the room to which he stated that there was an email confirmation and directive by the Ministry of Finance that the Chutney Soca Monarch was no longer to be the recipient of any funding whatsoever,” he said.
“We do get some support from different entities but no cash, the only cash support really came from the National Lotteries Control Board, and that has been so for the last few years,” Singh said.
Asked whether the controversial song by Nermal “Massive” Gosein may have played a part in the cancellation, Singh shook his head before saying he hoped this was not the case.
“I can’t answer that question directly. I would like to think it has nothing to do with it. And I would hate to think that it had something to do with it,” he said.
“I have no idea what is the reason but I think it is suspicious that it was done at this particular time. I was even asked a question by a member of the NLCB as to who are the judges of the show.”
In 2017, the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs allocated the sum of $1,180,000 to the competition. In 2016, prize money was cut from $4.5 million to $3.5 million.