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EDITORIAL: New growth strategy needed for coming year


rhondathompson, [email protected]

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As we prepare to usher in the New Year we are very conscious of the challenging economic climate we will be facing.  As such, we are forced to look for new avenues in order to ensure economic growth and employment opportunities.
The development of the cultural industries with particular emphasis on music, heritage, visual arts, craft and the performing arts are often mentioned as offering tremendous promise.  Indeed music has been pushed to the fore in light of the successes of Rihanna, Shontelle, Hal Linton, Rupee and other Barbadian artistes.
Evidence of the cultural industries potential is the Crop-Over Festival which, in a study by SALISES a few years ago, was estimated to contribute $60 million to the Barbadian economy.  Major festivals such as Crop-Over are important economically in large part because of their significant knock-on effects. However, it must be admitted that before the full economic value can be harnessed, there are a number of challenges still to be confronted.
The local cultural industries are characterised predominantly by  part-time and seasonal workers, most probably as a result of the difficulties in accessing financial and other support. There are also challenges in terms of the level of creativity, technical quality, packaging and international appeal.
In terms of the problem of financing, the comments by the producers of the Barbados Jazz Festival and the recently launched Caribfest merit careful consideration, particularly in terms of the role of Government vis-à-vis private entrepreneurs.
What should be the level, duration or nature of the support be managed, monitored and evaluated?  The support of Government does not extend to just financing and marketing as in the case of the Jazz Festival, but importantly includes for example, the guarantee of broadcast time for local productions.
  Broadcast is perhaps the greatest form of distribution for many art forms and addresses not only commercial concerns but also social objectives such as education and the transmission of cultural values.  In many territories the use of mandatory content quotas has been employed and in others, voluntary industry standards.
Whether mandatory or voluntary, ensuring local productions adequate air-time merits careful consideration if we are truly committed to developing our local cultural industries, especially if as it is often stated by the local copyright agency, COSCAP, that the majority of royalties collected in Barbados are exported because of the low levels of local music being played.
There has been and will always be the need for exposure to all types of music and from all lands, but at the same time we need to look at how we support the entertainers and songwriters of these lands almost to the exclusion of our own. Granted, some of the promotion may very well be self interest, whether directly as promoters  or for those tied to promoters.
 Indeed, that slogan Buy Bajan does not exclusively refer to only manufactured goods and agricultural products but to the intangibles as well. The radio stations must not be used to promote personal interests. The various local artistes must benefit too.

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