EDITORIAL: Maximise benefits of Crop Over
ANOTHER Crop Over Festival has ended, with the organisers of the two-month long festival expressing satisfaction that it indeed was a success.
Looking back over the duration of the festival we would concur that, given the financial issues confronting the country, the National Cultural Foundation and other stakeholders were able to put together a good show. There is no doubt about this as many of the events attracted sizeable audiences and massive support, which augured well for the country.
What however is interesting from this stand point is whether Barbados has reached the stage where it is moving to maximize the full potential of the benefits from Crop Over in terms of revenue generation, as well as pushing the island’s Cultural Services as another plank in the economy? The festival has to be seen in the context of it having been positioned with broad goals in mind, particularly the economic angle.
The months of July to September are usually considered as a very slow period in the economic cycle of the country. In that period there is no sugar crop, since that would have ended at least by June. The strong growth in visitor arrivals usually comes to an end by June as well, or just before. Foreign reserves usually dwindle by that time as well. So the Crop Over Festival was planned to at least give some filip to economic activity.
In a Government Information Service (GIS) commentary made some years ago, then Prime Minister Freundel Stuart acknowledged the role the Festival has served in generating economic activity. Those coming to the island contribute in a big way to visitor arrivals and hotel occupancy. The consumption of food and beverages adds to the revenue position of both retailers and producers; the purchase of clothing, items to make costumes (notwithstanding that some of these are imported) and other gears; the attendance at shows and the other key Crop Over events like Pic-o-de-Crop, Junior calypso competitions; temporary employment; financial support by private sector companies for the events; the business generated by car rental firms and restaurants and bars; and the involvement of Caribbean nationals in the Festival add to the business side of it.
The point must be made that some years ago the NCF mounted promotions in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and one or two of the other islands to woo people to Barbados for the Festival. In terms of Cultural Industries development, Barbados requires every opportunity that is available to broaden its economic offerings that would allow for the creation of jobs, and boosting services exports to earn foreign exchange. Several of our Cultural Industries practitioners are very active in the Festival. It therefore serves as a launching pad to highlight their creativity, thereby exploring some openings for them.
The economic benefit of the Festival and the level of financial injection made into the economy remain significant. Over the years a host of numbers has been cast about. Some says it is about $80 million; the amount of over $100 million has also been attached to the Festival, and so on and so on. Whatever the amount, Crop Over has the potential to boost Barbados’ economy. We must build on it by looking for opportunities to maximize that potential.