NASSAU, The Bahamas, Thursday December 1, 2016 – The popular Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival could be in doubt next year as the Perry Christie administration signals that it has not ruled out mounting calls for the event to be put on hold as the repair bill from recent hurricanes runs into the millions.
Preliminary losses from Hurricane Matthew’s onslaught in Grand Bahama, Andros and New Providence last month has amounted to $US500 million in damage and officials are expecting this figure to rise to as much as US$800 million when the repair costs from Hurricane Joaquin in 2015 are added.
With the Government likely to borrow $150 million to boost ongoing recovery efforts, hurricane relief coordinator Shane Gibson has indicated that cancelling Junkanoo was possible “if monies cannot be allocated for it when the times comes”.
“We will have to wait and see,” he told the Nassau Guardian.
Gibson was optimistic that the three-day carnival set for May 4-6, 2017 could go on as planned, but he stressed that it would be reviewed in the weeks ahead.
Some groups have dismissed the carnival as a waste of money, insisting that it should be called off.
Earlier this year, Chairman of the Bahamas National Festival Commission (BNFC) Paul Major said the island would have to spend at least US$7 million to host the event, but critics point out that cost overruns are almost always a given.
Last year, the Government had budgeted US$9 million for the event but spent an additional three million as costs rose to US$12.9 million.
This year, the BNFC’s own economic report said the staging of carnival cost US$9.8 million with the Government subsidizing US$8.1 million of the sum.
Gibson stressed that like any other expenditure, the Government would decide based on what was most needed.
“Once we determine if something continues to be a priority, then we go along with it. If it is determined that it is something that we should not go on with at this time, then we won’t…We have other items in our ministerial budgets that we will revise from time to time, and carnival is just like that,” he said.
His comments came as damage assessments on New Providence and other islands continue. He said this was expected to take months to complete. Nearly 7, 000 private homes across the country have been assessed so far.