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T&T Carnival literally runs on diesel fuel and, with the increase in diesel, from $2.30 per litre to $3.41, Carnival 2018 could certainly be negatively affected. Bandleaders, steelbands, promoters all rely on the transportation of instruments, equipment and music, with significant reliance on dieselfuelled cabs that carry trailers. For some mas bands, costumes have already been fixed so it is now too late to pass on any increased cost of fuel to the masquerader.
As far as steelbands are concerned, with scores of them relying on transport companies to move instruments to several competitions and commute pan players and instruments on the road on two days of carnival, the situation becomes a little bit complicated. Complicated because steelbands tend to hire transport annually, sometimes with a last-minute arranger between band and transport company.
In recent years, any major show/fete at carnival has a mammoth stage, some costing in excess of one million dollars, as a primary requirement on its need-to-have list. Aside from transporting the components for these stages, other pre-requisite fabrications, like tents, flooring and barriers, are also at the top of the list.
Also at the top of the list, is the contracting of protective services personnel, ie fire and police. With these services having to pay more for diesel fuel to use their buses, most likely their extra duty fees would also increase.
Reigning Band of the Year (Large) bandleader Ronnie Mc Intosh said his band, Ronnie & Caro, will not be negatively impacted by the increase in diesel fuel. He said: “I am have already conversations with my transport people. My trucking company has not increased its prices for Carnival 2018. Every time there is a situation people tend to put a negative spin on if it will affect carnival; but, I prefer to be positive and focus on the types of contributions and benefits carnival makes to the national economy. Having said that, my costume prices have already been fixed so that remains the same. My transport on the road remains the same, and everything will remain the same with Ronnie & Caro.”
About the wider carnival scene, Mc Intosh said: “ I don’t think the fuel increases would negatively affect next year’s carnival. There is always a panic and exaggeration whenever we seem to have a crisis. As a people, we have a tendency to be always premature before the numbers have been crunched and allowed to soak in.
“Certain sectors of the country use this uncertainty to their advantage and convenience, and use it as an excuse to increase prices. Some also refuse to eat little and live long. Making a smaller profit will not put big companies, not the small businessman mind you, in the red. It’s just about making a smaller profit and cutting your cloth to fit your suit.
“So, when big business increases on their goods and services they simply continue to make gigantic profits. Basically, it’s just plain greed by some big corporate entities.”
Pan Trinbago president Keith Diaz is certain that the increase in fuel prices could negatively impact the 2018 National Panorama competition. He said: “Panorama begins on January 4 with the North Region Single Pan judging. In terms of transport, there is no need for that as preliminary is now being done in panyards. The truckers set the price for transport so there’s nothing Pan Trinbago can do about that.
“Steelbands will face higher costs to transport their instruments from their panyards to the various competitions nationwide for Panorama. Panorama is held in every region, inclusive of Tobago. We taking about 65 Single Pan bands, 62 Small Bands, 32 Medium and 17 Large steelbands. That is a total of roughly over 170 steelbands all told. Do the math and you will appreciate the cost of transport and trucking.”
Diaz added that Pan Trinbago is awaiting word on what quantum of allocation his organisation will be given out of the recently read budget. He said: “Pan Trinbago will definitely run next year’s Panorama but the amount of subsidy we will get to execute remains an unknown factor. Anytime there is a recession the first thing that is hit is culture although it is culture which generates a high percentage revenue for our country.
“In the budget I haven’t heard anything mentioned about the allocation to culture, especially to the national instrument. Despite this, no one has seen any protest, placards or any form of action from the steelband movement against this government. Pan Trinbago continues to be committed to work with the government for culture in the country.
“I also feel that dialogue with Government as a way forward for them to properly understand the cultural landscape of our country.”
David Lopez, chairman of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA), confessed that he has a problem with the preponderance of trucks and trailers on the parade route on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, and hopes that the fuel increase would reduce their number. He said: “I think that given how our carnival has evolved there are going to be significant increases in goods and supplies. Once you’ve raised the price of fuel everything is going to be affected. But, we have to look at the other side in terms of these massive trucks being on the road for carnival.
“Because of these huge, cumbersome vehicles, we have moved from creativity in mas and portrayal to more being a parade of trucks and trailers. So, if this price increase would reduce the amount of trailers on the road probably we would see the easing of the congestion on the parade route. And, if we go back to the times when carnival was mainly about the display of carnival costumes, and not all these trailers, bandleaders would be more looking at music that they can afford without having these massive trailers.
“I think that these trucks and trailers are a disaster waiting to happen in carnival.”
Eventology GM and Island People official Colin Greaves said that the increase in goods and services for carnival because of the fuel increase is already a reality. “We have already gotten price increases for most of the items related to carnival. I believe the increase in diesel fuel will have an effect on Carnival 2018; in fact it will have an effect even before carnival.
“The challenge I have is that Trinis would look for any excuse to hike the price on anything increased in a budget. Even if the subsidy in the future is reinstated the prices would not go back down. Suppliers would have some reason to keep them high.
“Let’s say a delivery truck for some product is transporting 1,000 items with a higher cost of diesel fuel the supplier would already increase the price of the product to compensate. For each trip, with each item having a two-dollar mark up, means that that company would now make $2,000 revenue to compensate for a hundred-dollar fuel increase.
“In Trinidad, nothing is increased by 25 or 50 cents so the reality is the fuel increase would affect goods and services in every way, across the board. In coming weeks the price of renting a generator would increase as well the price of obtaining any item or product needed to stage an event, move a steelband or provide road music on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.”