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Trinidad and Tobago

Published on April 4th, 2016 | by Trinidad Express Newspapers


Now is the time to elevate our pan

In response to the declaration that Trinidad and Tobago’s economy is in recession, I have read several commentators and economists put forward suggestions as to how we should deal with it. In my humble view, some are practical but others are myopic. But the common thread in all recommendations is teamwork and the need for innovation, creativity, resourcefulness and entrepreneurship where overhead expenses are minimal.

As expertly stated by Sunity Maharaj in her article of January 31, “it is high time that we review our recalcitrance and refusal to recognise, validate and support enterprise and initiative emerging from the people’s sector. We must eradicate the cultural legacy of ingrained prejudice against the grassroots economy”. Here, I am not only referring to the food court at the Queen’s Park Savannah, but also events and institutions like Carnival and Pan Trinbago. The truth is Carnival is rooted in the people, the most significant resource of any nation, and it provides an opportunity from which all sectors of our economy benefit—from the airlines and hotels to the street vendors, the pannists, the artistes, the mas makers and the transport sector, etc. You name it! While there is need for prudent fiscal management, Carnival should not suffer any cuts in financial allocation, but should be reviewed with the aim of increasing its participation both locally and internationally, thereby adding more revenue to the coffers of Trinidad and Tobago.

Here I challenge the Ministry of Culture and the Central Statistical Office to truly tell the nation how much revenue is derived from Carnival. It is rumoured Labour Day and Caribana bring the most revenue to the cities of New York and Toronto, respectively.
For far too long Pan Trinbago has been a victim of lip service by successive governments that refuse to recognise the power of pan and its revenue-earning possibilities. Imagine in the land of its birth steelbands still occupy ramshackle panyards with scarce amenities and resources because they are at the mercy of governments that are so myopic that they can’t realise or take for granted the strides the fraternity has made socially, musically and internationally. They also underestimate its power to earn the much-needed foreign dollar.

In an attempt to escape this dependency syndrome and improve the lot of the pannist, Pan Trin­bago did the research and applied to the last government for approval to implement a heritage lottery. I understand it was well received but certain flaws in the law (relating to the Lotteries Board) prevented it from becoming a reality. I am calling on this Government to take the necess­ary steps to ensure approval is granted to Pan Trinbago.
Lotteries are used as fundraising tools by civil society organisations in Germany, Spain, Ireland, Sweden, the UK, Uzbekistan, The Netherlands and more recently Slovakia. They may be either used to raise funds for the CSO itself or for other good causes. These ongoing lotteries often exist parallel to State lotteries. There should be no concern about any competition or negative impact this lottery will have on the Lotto because the Pan Trinbago lottery is intended to be international, among the countries that have signed the memorandum of understanding at the international conference and Panorama at the Queen’s Park Savannah in 2015.

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Gerard Mendez, chairman,
Pan Trinbago Northern Region

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