Reggae legends Marcia Griffiths and Freddie McGregor (second left) share a light moment with JaRIA Chairman Ibo Cooper (right) and Executive Director Charles Campbell. (PHOTO: BRYAN CUMMINGS)—-
JAMAICA Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) Chairman Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper is questioning the rationale behind the Government’s slashing of an annual allocation to the association to run the 22-event Reggae Month in February.
Speaking at a press conference at the creative hub Nanook, located at Burlington Avenue in St Andrew, Cooper said the association’s allocation from the public sector had been reduced by 70 per cent as against previous years.
JaRIA is given financial support from the Jamaica Tourist Board, the Tourism Enhancement Fund, the CHASE Fund, and Jampro.
Cooper pointed out that the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association had pledged support for Reggae Month and lauded its ability to attract tourists to Kingston, while the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment has requested that JaRIA co-operate with the JHTA to make the vision a reality.
It was against that background that Cooper said the association was baffled that its budgetary allocation had been significantly slashed.
“The same ministry of entertainment and tourism has, however, significantly reduced support and so we utilise this opportunity to encourage the government, the private sector to realise and seize and utilise a golden opportunity,” Cooper asked.
Cooper pointed to the growth of Reggae Month since its inception five years ago into a viable entertainment venture.
It has been projected that some US$6 million will be filtered into the economy based on the month of activities.
“They have committed 30 per cent of what we got last year. We need clarity. What, if any, is the plan for Reggae Month?” he said.
However, Cooper expressed the association’s gratitude to its broadcast media sponsors, who have contributed $23 million so far.
“The media support reflects media’s recognition of the improvement and increase of Reggae Month’s impact, so the media is worthy of support yet the Government and private sector at this time have seemingly been out of touch with this improvement. So the decrease in support from the tourism ministry is very surprising,” he said.
The association said no explanation had been forthcoming on the reasons behind the cut in allocation, and they had been forced to contact state minister Damion Crawford, and Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeill and after getting no response from either, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.
In 2008, the association was promulgated by former Governor General Sir Kenneth Hall, and in the following year JaRIA was mandated by government to organise Reggae Month with a view of uniting the island’s entertainment industry.
“What is the current policy as it regards JaRIA being the executed arm for co-ordinating Reggae Month?” executive director Charles Campbell asked.
Over the years artists, musicians, light and sound providers, and other entities have performed for free or at reduced rates, and Campbell was not lost on their selfless contribution to the cause.
“We couldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the tremendous sacrifice of the artists, musicians and providers of equipment. People can’t imagine just how much the artists and musicians have given of their time and talent free of cost. What we are asking for from the public and private sector is to match the commitment of the entertainment fraternity who built this thing from what was once an obscure event to an international festival,” Campbell said.