Submitted by Wayne Cadogan
On Sunday May 24th. Minister of Culture, The Honourable Stephen Lashley M.P. was on CBC TV 8 program Meet the Minister. A number of questions were posed to him by the Presenter and the public via emails. Towards the end of the program, I emailed the following question to the Minister.
“Good night, Mr. Minister how is it that a man can sing a song about rum and get a car worth over $60,000 and yet, every year the King and Queen of the crop could only get a wooden trophy and probably another small token. Why cannot they be given a more substantial prize, like a car or a piece of land?”
For the first time during the show, the Minister became very uneasy and fidgety regarding the question when it was put to him by the Presenter. One could sense the agitation in his voice towards the question and in his response. He stated that the statement is not true and that the King and Queen receive adequate prizes from the private sector.
As far as I can remember, the same male and female has been winning each year the king and Queen of the crop and as memory serves me, they have been receiving a wooden bill and at most a couple of other prizes including dinner vouchers from the private sector. The total amount of these prizes are insignificant to some of the other prizes that are distributed by the National Cultural Foundation for other Crop Over activities, which are in the thousands of dollars in some cases.
The Crop Over activities is the responsibility of and is organized by the National Cultural Foundation and not a private sector affair other than for sponsorship for some of the activities. The input of the King and Queen of the crop is just as important to the Crop Over activities as any of the other activities and should therefore be compensated in a more tangible manner; commensurate to any of the other crop over activities.
If one had to measure the production and hours spent in the hot broiling sun what the King and Queen have to do in order to achieve the title, then everyone would agree that they are not adequately compensated. The abundance of wooden bills acquired over the years by both the King and Queen combined has no monetary value other than sentimental value. Hopefully, the wood that they are made of is treated and would not attract any termites.
One cannot say that the National Cultural Foundation does not make any money on the Crop Over activities, because nothing is free. For most of the activities there is an entrance fee attached and most of the activities are well patronized with some free passes for certain people. The costs of the booths on Spring Garden are in the hundreds of dollars for rental. It would be interesting to know how many of the multitude of stall owners do make a profit on their investment amidst the fierce competition for sales.
The same manner in which there is transparency to the public regarding the prizes, monetary and other wise for the calypsonians and bands is published, why is it that the prizes awarded to the King and Queen of the crop cannot be published also? The various private sector companies that buy into the Crop Over activities through sponsorship as part of their marketing strategy would be more than happy to have the public know what contribution that they are making towards the Crop Over activities.