EDITORIAL: Cultural Industries crucial
THE Prime Minister’s Forum on Culture, held on June 28, 2002, set out some very clear objectives where Barbados wants to go with a Cultural Industries sector once a template was in place. That forum was held against the background of a desire to give more thrust to the economy, since it was recognized that the country was at the stage where a single economic sector did not make sense in a changing global environment.
The objectives included the provision of a forum that allows for stakeholders – and there are many of them – to exchange views and share information; set out a timetable towards the formulation of an official national policy on Culture to go before Parliament; a study to determine the economic impact and contribution of Culture; and for developing specific action for implementation. Most of these things, including the appropriate legislation, were put in place in recent times.
Some 16 years after that forum, we are still waiting to see some real tangible benefits emanating from the sector that, to say the least, ought to have been further.
Just recently, the Minister of Culture, John King, reinforced the point that the present administration is giving priority to the sector. He highlighted the sector’s potential as a key driver of economic activity and said that its growth and development, unlike the traditional areas of the economy, is rooted in the creativity of those practitioners present. Further on the Minister alluded to some studies, which he said had shown repeatedly that the Arts can enhance development economically, socially and individually.
It was felt at the time of the 2002 forum and even before then that the development of Cultural Industries as a legitimate aspect of the economy “was crucial at this juncture” of the country’s development. Cultural industries represent a very broad set of activities ranging from the performing arts, to festival and events, craft and design, architecture and film, to printed matter. The report from the forum went on to indicate that the success and sustainability as an economic sector would not only depend on Barbados’ ability to promote the requisite tools for creative spirit to thrive, but also on its commitment to excellence.
It is hoped therefore at this juncture that Minister King, a former Cultural Industries Practitioner himself, having recognized and highlighted its importance, will give greater leadership to the thrust going forward. He has only been in his current position from June this year and would need to become more fully in tune with what practitioners are demanding and hoping for, as well as the finer details involved.
The sector is needed even more so at this time where an economic recovery programme is being undertaken. There are opportunities for Cultural Industries and the export of their services. The one that instantly comes to mind is the CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) involving the European Union and Caribbean countries. That arrangement signed in Barbados in 2008 promises openings for Cultural services exports to the European Union countries under the different modes through which trade in services take place. Time is definitely running out for us to get our acts together in order to work this agreement in a way to realise the benefits which the Europeans are offering us.