(Trinidad Guardian) Cabinet yesterday agreed to a huge reduction of the budgetary allocation to the International Soca Monarch and the National Chutney Soca Monarch for Carnival next year.
Speaking during yesterday’s post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, Cuffie said the allocations to the respective events are to be slashed by more than 50 per cent.
Cuffie’s statement comes less that 24 hours after the Minister of Community Development, Culture and Arts Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said the $270 million budgetary allocation for the staging of the festival next year will be reduced by $44 million.
In giving the breakdown, Cuffie said: “Last year for the national chutney soca monarch, the allocation was $4.8 million and this year it has been reduced to $2.9 million.”
“For the International Soca Monarch, last year the allocation was $8.09 million and this year it has been reduced to $3.5 million.
“Those reductions are in keeping with the state of the economy, the fact that we are eliminating waste, corruption, mismanagement anywhere we can find it and it is really in keeping with what we can afford.”
He said it must be noted that those events were staged by private organisations, adding that the Government recognised the importance of those competitions to the national festival.
Cuffie said he was confident that both private organisations were quite adept at finding funds to run the competitions.
He also said cuts were made as “it was simply what the Government can afford to contribute.”
Labour Minister Jennifer Baptise-Primus, who also spoke at the news conference, said the new Government remained committed to paying the arrears to public servants in the new year.
Last week, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said the Government would not be able to pay the arrears before the end of this year.
The former government had reached agreement with the workers and they were expected to be paid for Christmas.
Baptiste-Primus met with the National Trade Union Centre and the Joint Trade Union Movement separately to inform them of the reasons for the delay in making the payment.
Baptiste-Primus said it was the former PP government which dried up the funds to pay the workers.
Baptiste-Primus, a former trade union leader, was responding to claims by former prime minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar that the PP government left funds to settle the outstanding debt.
Baptiste-Primus said it was the former PP administration which “engaged several short-term loans (for) three months, six month, nine months, with all of them bunching to be paid by the end of November.
“Those cheques total something like $5 billion. If that expenditure was not before this Government I am sure we may have been in a position to respond positively.”
She said she requested the labour federations to exercise some patience “as those arrears will be honoured in 2016 via a loan on the open market.”