It is quite disappointing that after five months the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has not paid its bills for the Tobago Jazz Festival. It is a further insult that all the foreign artistes were paid but local artistes are still getting the run-around for payments. This fact makes Secretary of Tourism, Ms. Nadine Stewart-Phillip’s excuse of it being an administrative process ring hollow.
The THA would have invested $12 million this year to host the Tobago Jazz Festival. However, in 2016, a Parliament Joint Select Committee on the THA advised against investing in this event as it brought no returns for the Tobago economy. Millions of dollars spent annually for 10 years on the Tobago jazz festival with nothing to show for it.
Questions to the Minister of Tourism, Shamfa Cudjoe in Parliament asking about the revenues generated from this year’s event brought no answers to the House and a request for more time to get information was given. This shows gross disorganisation and incompetence by the THA and the Ministry of Tourism as the Tobago Jazz Festival is supposed to be an event to attract tourists to Tobago.
Forcing our local artistes to wait over five months for payments would have had a negative impact on their business operations, credit ratings and banking operations. The impact on our local performers was clearly not taken into account as payments to foreign artistes were prioritized, leaving our locals out in the cold.
I therefore call on the Minister of Tourism, Shamfa Cudjoe; Secretary for Tourism, Mrs. Nadine Stewart and THA Chief Secretary, Kelvin Charles to do what is right and expedite the process to ensure payments to all local artistes and service providers are made.