Trinidad and Tobago


Now we know how they really feel about pan

January 7, 1999
By Terry Joseph

When government can hold a straight face while saying it can only spare $2 million for pan this year, even as the Miss Universe Pageant is already costing us $75 million, we get a clear and precise reading of their value system.

In making the announcement at last Sunday's official launch of Carnival 1999, it may not have struck Senator Wade Mark that as an investment in our national musical instrument, $2 million is patently inadequate, except state officials anticipate no greater a return than to gather and watch the natives dance.

Government's vision certainly cannot, at that price, extend to pan research and development or using the momentum of Carnival to establish social programmes in the communities from which the groups come. Government must know that the $2 million only serves to reinforce the inferiority complex already being experienced by not just the players, but nationals at large who assume proprietary rights over the instrument.

Now, compare that subvention with the $75 million the Government seems willing to spend on a one-night stand for the Miss Universe Pageant. And please don't come to me with the argument about long-term gains for Trinidad and Tobago from staging the show here, except you have some evidence.

If the average reader can remember even the continent on which the show was held a mere four years ago, then I am willing to rethink the theory about "long-term marketing and tourism benefits invariably accruing to the host-country".

Let us ask Mexico, for instance, if its staggering US$150 billion in foreign-debt would have been better or worse, had they not hosted the pageant three times in the past 20 years. Or are we assuming that the success of Bangkok, Athens or Hong Kong as tourist destinations and investment options, was largely dependent upon their holding Miss Universe Pageants there?

Let us face it. A flurry of cosmetic enhancements to the facades of those places where pageant boss Donald Trump and his touring party are likely to pass may be all we really distill from this adventure.

Ponder also on the sudden reversal in our government's attitude toward the pageant itself.
Our 1997 entrant, Margot Bourgeois, was turned down point blank when she begged them for a measly US$800 to pay for a costume actually called "Trinidad and Tobago Carnival".

Local franchise-holder the late Kim Sabeeney was in tears on the eve of Bourgeois' departure for the competition, when she called this columnist, desperate for help of any kind. I called then-National Carnival Commission head Roy Augustus, who saved face for the country by paying for the costume, even after his parent Ministry had refused to contribute.

If the marketing hype about "the world is watching us" was true, if the Miss Universe Pageant is worth any more than an opportunity for CBS television and Trump to increase their fortunes, the pageant's history should come easily to mind.

Four years ago, the pageant was held in Windhoek, Namibia.

And you could not even remember that. See how much it did for them?

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