Masqueraders thankful for exemptions, but call for more assistance

Saying that this Crop Over season was one of the hardest for masquerade bands, with several of them forced to either reduce their packages or give away costumes, the head of the Barbados Association of Masqueraders today said proposed tax exemptions for 2015 will be a relief.

But Chetwyn Stewart told Barbados TODAY that more incentives are needed to help the struggling band leaders. He has suggested that subventions and increased prize money would assist greatly.

Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley announced at the Crop Over awards ceremony over the weekend that masqueraders will get a tax relief on import duties, stamp duties, and Value Added Tax (VAT) on equipment and non-capital supplies from next year.

Chetwyn Stewart
Chetwyn Stewart

“It was long overdue so we welcome these things but there needs to be more incentives for the masqueraders to do a lot of different things. This is why we don’t have the King and the Queen anymore, because when you spend $80,000 to $100,000 and then somebody looks at you and offers you $5,000 or $10,000 if you win first prize, that is foolishness,” the Power X 4 band leader said.

Meantime, he gave thumbs up to the decision to shift the Pic-O-De-Crop finals to the Saturday after the Foreday Morning Jam.

That too, he said, was a long time coming.

He said he had met with Lashley earlier this year to push for Foreday Morning Jam to have a day of its own because it was constantly growing.

“There are some who will be upset but there will be a lot more who will be glad for it. You can’t please everyone and sometimes you have to look for the best of a situation and I think this is the best because it would make it a lot easier for the police to manage,” he said.

Fellow band leader Renee Ratcliffe told Barbados TODAY the change in dates did not affect her either way and said she was pleased about the VAT relief.

“It is fantastic that there are going to waive the VAT for us. I think that is fabulous because a lot of the bands suffered this year,” Ratcliffe said, noting that in all her years masquerading, this was the first year her Kiddies Kadooment band did not sell out and she had to give free costumes.

However, she wants to see the band leaders and calypsonians given equal treatment in their “marriage”.

Ratcliffe lamented that, as it stands, they have a “one-sided union”, as every year masqueraders were slighted while calypsonians were rewarded in abundance for their efforts.

“Year after year after year, the calypsonians are given a lot more than we are and without us bringing a band there is no reason for the calypsonians to win Road March or win Pic-O-De-Crop. They depend on us, we depend on them. We are technically married to the calypsonians but they are the only ones that seem to be benefitting. It seems like we are a second thought.”

“I’ve been in it a long time and I keep saying over and over again, we need more. I’m not being greedy about it but it just doesn’t seem fair. Is it fair that the calypsonians win a Staycation and not one of the band leaders won a five-day Staycation? You don’t think we need it? Not one band leader was given a Staycation, not one band leader was given a cell phone as a prize, not one band leader was offered a car as a prize.

Ratcliffe added: “I can go blue in my face saying it. At every meeting everybody goes, ‘it will be better next year, next year we will get something else’, but fair is fair. In a marriage it should be equal – that’s all I’m saying.”


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