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That Etana grant fiasco

Jamaica Observer / The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sports, headed by Ms Olivia “Babsy” Grange might wish to take a closer look at the programmes and policy initiatives inherited from Mr Damion Crawford’s administration of that ministry. Following on the national embarrassment caused by the use of the first entertainment zone along the Palisadoes strip for a Sandz party on New Year’s Day, we now have the fiasco with the controversial granting of entertainer Etana a US$5,000 grant under the Tour Support and Artiste Ambassador Programme.

Both the entertainment zone idea and the Tour Support and Artiste Ambassador Programme seem to have been adopted “hook, line and sinker” by Ms Grange’s Administration without any review, whether just to see if the provisions were credible or to make any necessary improvements.

It is that lazy approach that has resulted in the Palisadoes Road being blocked, causing people going to the airport to miss flights, or forced to wait long hours at the airport after coming off their flights, as well as the painful debate over the Etana grant.

To be fair, the two ideas, in and of themselves, are worthwhile additions to the entertainment infrastructure. Hence we are not berating Mr Crawford for their origin, or Ms Grange for continuing them. Our contention is that they are in need of re-examination.

After the New Year’s Day Sandz party all the State agencies were scurrying to escape blame for the disaster that ensued, and there was great confusion over where exactly along the Palisadoes strip was approved as an entertainment zone.

We are told that an entertainment zone is an area in which any legal entertainment and sports activity can be staged any time of day or night unhindered, as long as the organisers are mindful of the historical value of such sites, and of neutralising the problem of noise nuisance.

We expect that since the brouhaha all the stakeholder agencies have met to review the entertainment zone provisions and to put in place arrangements to prevent a recurrence of the Palisadoes nightmare.

Minister Grange must now turn her attention to the controversial grant of US$5,000 to Ms Shauna McKenzie, more popularly known as Etana, “the strong one”, for her 32-city North American concert tour. Tuesday’s media briefing to clear the air of misconceptions or misinformation did anything but.

The idea that the grant programme is a way to enhance the reggae brand and provide additional marketing for destination Jamaica is fine, but the glaring question is why is it given to a seasoned entertainer who is working for a living just like any other Jamaican.

How is the return on the investment by the beleaguered Jamaican taxpayer to be measured? Are grants accessible to every individual or organisation travelling overseas for activities, such as sporting, artistic, educational, or scientific events that can be said to promote Brand Jamaica?

We certainly hope that strenuous efforts are made to see that the artistes receiving State money to perform overseas are paying their taxes in Jamaica, given the propensity of the entertainment industry to flout our tax laws.

Too many good ideas go to government to die.

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