TT prepares for large post COVID carnival

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley.
Photo by Nelson A. King, file

Despite a spike in COVID-19 cases, the twin-island federation of Trinidad and Tobago is preparing to next month host what officials say would be “the mother” of all carnivals three years after it last held one of the world’s most glittering spectacles.

The 2023 edition is being dubbed as one of the largest and most significant primarily because the COVID pandemic had completely wiped out the 2021-22 editions and had reduced last year’s planning to a mere “taste of carnival” that had involved no costume parades and major public events.

The Keith Rowley administration has set aside close to $25 million for the staging of what is usually a world class event, spoken of in the same tones and hallways as Brazil’s Rio carnival and that of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana. Carnival week starts on Feb. 15 and runs until the 22.

For Rowley and Minister of Health, Terrence Deyalsingh, the only area of major concern is whether citizens would take enough personal responsibility to keep the number of infections down as the health ministry is reporting a significant increase in weekly totals between Christmas week and the start of the new year.

Meanwhile, National Carnival Commission Chairman, Winston “Gypsy” Peters said the committee would make do with $7 million budget allocation shortfall as no amount of money is ever enough. He also says that this year could indeed see one of the largest editions in recent decades as participants are eager to return to normal.

He told television station CN-3 that carnival is a national investment or project that brings hundreds of millions into the national treasury and contributes to the pockets of thousands of citizens through a range of business opportunities including tourist arrivals.

“The government invests that money in Carnival and the profit margin on carnival is a very high one, so it is not wasted money and the money that we spend on carnival goes right back into the pockets of Trinidadians and Tobagonians in the shortest possible time for the work that they do so I don’t want people to feel that they are asking for (TT$200 million to have carnival, you know how we think, without even looking at the benefits that carnival brings and the amount of money that you are going to get back.”

And responding to pleas from the business sector, including the promoters association, not to impose any pandemic-like restrictions, PM Rowley says government is investing in responsible behavior from citizens for a successful event. We’re not disrupting the economy, we’re not disrupting the border, we are living with COVID-19,” he told reporters this week.