Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Trinidad state owned phone company's plan to spend in excess of $10M for Beyonce concert creates a stir.

Yard Flex: THE SLOGAN, “because you’re worth it”, was once made famous, in part, by Beyonce’s participation in a series of advertisements for the cosmetics brand L’oreal. But taxpayers, trade unionists and artistes are now questioning whether the entertainer’s upcoming concert, for which the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) is to spend a minimum of about $10 million to stage, is worth it after all.

According to the president of the Communications Workers Union Joseph Remy, TSTT has informed the trade union that $5 million has already been spent by the company on the upcoming concert carded for February 18 at the Queen’s Park Savannah. He revealed that senior TSTT officials have also said that, excluding the costs of building infrastructure for the event, the total cost of paying Beyonce’s appearance fee and promoting the event will cross $10 million.

“That information was confirmed,” Remy said in an interview with Newsday yesterday. “Five million has already been spent and they are estimating spending between $5 million to $10 million on this promotion. But it can even go beyond $10 million. That’s for her appearance fee and part of the cost of promotion. You also have to remember the kind of infrastructure you will have to put up in the Savannah.”

The upcoming concert is being billed on Beyonce’s website as a part of her ‘I am…Sasha Fierce’ world tour, which has scheduled stops in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Peru before hitting Trinidad. Officials at TSTT yesterday remained tight-lipped about the cost of the event, citing confidentiality clauses in their contract arrangements.

“We can’t disclose anything. It will be in breach of our agreement to disclose any financial details,” said Graeme Suite, manager of media relations and corporate communications, when asked to comment on the report of the $10 million price tag.

Entertainment consultants with experience in bringing high-profile American artistes to perform in this country yesterday said Beyonce’s standard appearance fee per concert is US$1 million (TT$ 6.3 million). Beyonce recently billed a Manhattan nightclub US$200,000 (TT$1.3 million) to appear, according to E! Online. The singer did not, however appear, after the nightclub owner failed to pay the fee.

Remy yesterday criticised TSTT for what he described as “lavish expenditure” in the context of the current global economic slowdown.. Additionally, he called the move to stage the concert “contemptuous” in context of the bitter multi-million dollar battle the trade union and TSTT have been engaged in over the salaries of TSTT workers over the last months.

“This is scandalous to the extreme and we need the Government to intervene and to stop this promotion,” he said. “We want a full-scale investigation into this because this smacks of corruption. It is a wastage of taxpayers’ money and we are questioning the whole backdrop of the genesis of this concert.”

Remy added, “We are going to write to the Government calling on them to call the company into account for this type of expenditure, especially now when we are having economic troubles and we are lavishing this money on Beyonce. We are in 2010 and we still have employees working on 2005 salaries.” He queried why the company was investing significant sums in a non-core business. “A few years ago TSTT took a decision to get out of non-core business transactions, for example employee loans. But now that you’ve done that, you are now coming to promote a Beyonce concert that really adds no value to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago or your employees and is not a core transaction,” Remy said. The planned concert also came under fire from Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation executive member Karega Mandela who noted its timing in the middle of the Carnival season.

“I have no problem with Beyonce, but if you are using State funds in the middle of the Carnival celebrations I think it is gross disrespect,” Mandela said. “It is not a private person doing this, State funds are being used.” But don’t raise any questions over Beyoncé’s concert with any of her many local fans, judging from comments posted on an online forum by Trinidadians on her website at www.beyonceonline.com.

“I’ve been waiting a lifetime for this,” one forum member, identified as designerboi09, wrote. “Each day I think about it, I say thank you God for giving not just me but the many fans of Trinidad and Tobago and beyond of this amazing experience which is about to hit our shores.”

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