Column this week
Carnival Registration and a US$50 million jet – what, if anything, do these two things have in common? Well, you might be tempted to make the joke that at the rate things are going, you might end up having the pay roughly the same amount for both. But in the way of jokes that’s not very funny, especially for die hard Carnival junkies like myself who might giggle at this, but secretly cross ourselves, our fingers and knock on wood to ward off this terrible evil.
What these two things have in common is the fact that they both demonstrate the poor state of affairs that is consumer appreciation in this country. Whether you are a masquerader or a taxpayer your money means boo if these two situations that occurred last week – and are still occurring – are anything to go by.
Now, to be fair, the appalling disregard for masqueraders’ money that I am referring to applies really to one band. Some bands have been marvelous at keeping their masqueraders abreast of what’s expected to happen, when it’s expected to happen, and at what cost. Pulse 8 and Tribe are two that come to mind and I am sure there are others. But it is another band that I am concerned with, a band that has marketed itself as “The” band, much the same way as its parties are marketed as “The” events to be seen in.
After the many hiccups encountered in its freshman year this year, many thought that the band would make extra efforts to not only ensure that those errors weren’t repeated, but also to do what was necessary to instill confidence in those who were considering playing with them next year. The launch was a success, despite the fact that it started later than had been advertised. The costumes were gorgeous and everybody waited excitedly for the website to be up so they could see the costumes properly and the cost. And we waited. And we waited. Meanwhile, calls to the mas camp went unanswered, until the voicemail inbox was full. Emails were unreturned. All the while rumours that registration had already begun for “important” masqueraders floated about, causing consternation and offense among potential players. Then came the surprise announcement on Friday – again through unofficial channels – that previous masqueraders would be allowed to register before the general public – on that same day!
So, to recap the situation that potential masqueraders were faced with yesterday – the website isn’t up, the prices haven’t been announced, there is no online registration yet overseas masqueraders have to pay the full price of their costume! This has left many masqueraders not only very confused but angry as well.
Now, on to the jet plane. Our beloved Prime Minister took a US$50m jet for a little test spin up the Caribbean lat week. Rumours and half truths have abounded since then. One theory is that the Mannings are planning on buying the jet to avoid the hassles they encounter when flying. What hassles a prime minister who is flying first class without having to do so much as carry his own Johnny Walker purchased in duty free would ever encounter I do not know. But apparently they are so horrendous, he needs to spend the food import bill of a small island to overcome it, despite the fact that officially 21% - yes, 21% - of the population lives below the poverty line. But I guess this is exactly why he would feel the need to purchase a jet plane; he wouldn’t be able to see anything from such heights, especially not children going to bed hungry and man scaling fence to steal zaboca to sell.
The other rumour is that Prime Minister Manning had been approached by Caricom to purchase a jet plane on their behalf. This is a bit confusing – do they mean for Manning to use our money to buy a plane for Caricom to use, or does it mean that Caricom funds will be used, they just want Manning to apply his jet plane buying expertise? When approached about this, the only thing the PM has been willing to give is annoying hand signals and what he imagines to be an enigmatic smile that really just makes him look annoying insipid and clueless.
Now my point is this. If I am paying taxes I think I have a right to know how that money will be spent and to voice my disapproval at its wastage. Likewise, if I am going to be spending over TT$3,000 for a costume then I think I should be able to see the costume before I buy it, know exactly what the cost is and be able to know exactly when I will be able to register, especially if I reside overseas.
But unfortunately these two situations reflect that communication in this country is still regarded mostly as a luxury and that the people who are there to serve us, still act like they’re doing us a favour.