Sunday, January 16, 2011

Caribbean Cultural Economy, What shall we do?

We are said to be in the era of the cultural economy.  As one of the  regions/nation of the world best known for our culture...we still have a lot of work to do.

Caribbean, and in particular Jamaican cultural industries are an untapped/underutilized/underdeveloped/marginalized resource that can kick-start the growth agenda if properly facilitated. 

Unfortunately, this lament has now become cliche. Development requires more than just the observation that this is so. What it requires in the reexamination and redevelopment of policy(ies). It also requires the d...evelopment of specific programmes, with specific deliverables emanating from that re-conceptualized policy and a clear plan of action.

First of all it requires clarity about what 'creative' and 'cultural' industries mean and  - their ideological differences.  That will help us to decide what we see as cultural/creative industries - ie is sport a cultural tourism a cultural industry for us?  Can we leave it all to the 'market' or is a greater level of state facilitation required?  Are what we have actually industries?  How do we make them so? All critical questions left unanswered and well, un-asked.

Then it requires the hard and complex task of really engaging the players within and without the formal 'industries'. A labour market survey and mapping research are required.  I'd like to test it,  but if you go into any community and offer a young man (or woman) the choice of a job as a welder or a carpenter,  or a sound technician or stage manager...they would trend towards the cultural industries, within which there are hundreds of categories of jobs.

Training and professional development are therefore  an important part of that process - but not willy-nilly, based on the needs of the 'industries'.

There needs to be an examination of the integration of the cultural industries agenda and social/cultural/economic development - "culturization" is what its called 'officially'. We can solve problems of health, security, education, housing, environment etc. etc etc. by sorting our the cultural industries.

We can address the economic woes of so many time you go to the airport, have a look around you.  I bet you'll see a musician en route to tour...thousands of people are making their living  by simply using the talent they have.

We have to teach people how to become effective entrepreneurs rather than embarrass them into it.  Many persons who have not filed taxes either don't know here to start or just cant even afford to engage the professionals who do, much less pay the taxes themselves. Many are simply afraid of or intimidated by the registration/taxation/capitalization processes.  This can be fixed with training and professional development.   These are real issues.

Funding and capitalization are also critical issues. Many proposals have been made for funding options.  Those have to be engaged.  Public/private partnerships need to be developed on a planned and structured basis.  The Culture Health Arts Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund has introduced an important funding source but it is not nearly enough... and is increasingly propping up the central budget.  In this regard (and others) government is competing with industry for resources.  This has to be re-examined.

Most importantly, building the cultural industries takes will and work.  Every week a young person calls or comes into my office, or students engage, just seeking guidance as to how to get a project off the ground, looking for creative work, outlets for their creative work and funding for projects...hundreds, thousands of fantastic ideas - stunted.  What do we do with these ideas?  Do we send them back into the realm of the hopeless?

In my production management class at the Creative Production and Training Center (CPTC), I ask students to develop a treatment for a film or television programme that they would produce if they had the complete budget...some fantastic ideas have emerged - with no outlet.

Many of these ideas are not original...this fight has been going on for about thirty years, before I even became interested.  Studies have been written, meetings have been held, task forces have been formed, policies and programmes have been drafted....but the struggle continues. We just have to do what we can until the political will becomes, well,  willing.

It is now time to engage. If we must grow, and we must, why not do it by emphasizing the things we as a people love to do?  If our competitive and comparative advantage lies in just being who we are, we are further ahead of the game than we even realize.

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