Bandleaders make another plea for relief
It is time for Government to demonstrate that it is serious about Crop Over by keeping its promise to make concessions available to stakeholders.
That is the appeal from bandleaders who once again are calling for passage of the Cultural Industries Development Bill 2013 which would provide for duty free concessions and income tax benefits in respect of cultural projects.
The proposed legislation also provides for the establishment of a regulatory framework to facilitate and encourage the sustainable growth and development of cultural industries and funding for cultural projects.
However, it is relief from the vexing Value Added Tax (VAT) which bandleaders say is most pressing since sponsorship no longer covers their expenses.
Veteran bandleader Trevor Chase, whose Ooutraje Band won several prizes in this year’s spectacle, told Barbados TODAY the exemptions were needed by those who brought value to the near four-month long festival.
“I bring value to this festival and if I bring value to this festival I think that the persons who are in a position to recognize that should recognize it and stop promising us this exemption and that exemption . . . . This is two years that it was going on,” Chase complained.
For sometime now stakeholders have been lobbying for the rate of VAT paid by promoters to be lowered to 7.5 per cent, from 17.5 per cent.
“There is no way that any of the bands that were produced on Crop Over brought their material from Barbados; they had to bring them in and once you had to bring them in you will have to pay duties.
“We went and we got the Cultural Bill sorted out, we applied, we did what they asked. When we asked when it would be put into law, when will we be able to access this privilege that you are giving to us, they don’t know,” Chase said. He said someone ought to be held accountable for the delay in passing the measure, otherwise stakeholders would lose trust in the policymakers.
“You can not let the [people] that try to make the festival what it is believe, ‘well there isn’t anyway we can get that, we got to be a special person to get it’. And that’s how we have started to think. If we are not somebody’s family or somebody you know, you can’t get it done. It shouldn’t be that way in Barbados in our 50th anniversary and we talking about 50 and going forward. You got to be able to show that man in the street that he is important,” Chase maintained.
Betty West, who has been in the masquerading business for the past 25 years, told Barbados TODAY she was also eager for the exemptions, as securing sponsorship to put her band on the road this year was a major challenge.
“Sponsorship was very, very bad so you have to be turning over and also you have to look for a lot of upfront money . . . and that was a challenge,” West said.
This was also a major issue for long time bandleader Gwenyth Squires, whose band swept the prizes on Kadooment Day.
Squires said the funds raised from sponsorship fell short of what was needed and the concessions would go a long way towards helping the bandleaders meet their costs.
“It [concessions] should help and the money that we getting for first prize and prize money is not good at all, ain’t good. If you spend $8, 000 on a costume and your first prize is $7,000 you ain’t get nothing, you ain’t make a cent and I think if the Government helps you will see move creativity in the bands,” she told Barbados TODAY.