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LEFT OF CENTRE: The only way forward


Mia Mottley

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What will be the new economic sectors securing our quality of life as a people in Barbados?
There has been lively debate since the 1990s as to the value, structure and future of the cultural and sporting industries in Barbados. Governments have attempted to chart this path to prosperity for the practitioners in this industry, harnessing their creative efforts to realize meaningful income generation both for them and for the national economy. We have witnessed the tremendous success of Rihanna, Allison Hinds and Edwin Yearwood.
The term “cultural industries” encompasses performance (theatre, music, dance and live arts), visual art, design (excluding environmental, industrial and product design), film, animation, media, new media, writing, publishing and craft.  
While it can be argued that there is evidence of creative and commercial activity in most of these areas of cultural industry in Barbados, it is also glaringly evident there is little or no structure to the industry, scarce funding opportunities and weaknesses in the efforts to design, market and distribute the fruits of the labour of our cultural practitioners and no synergies between relevant sectors.
Funding is critical to almost every aspect of the creative process. Governments and commercial financial institutions must develop a different set of criteria for approving grants and loans to cultural practitioners; the current terms and conditions simply do not apply to the realities of our artists, artistes, craftspersons, designers and producers in the cultural industries.
While governmental support is also critical, a working structure for this industry should be buttressed on the involvement of both the public and private sector.
This structure must focus on the design, promotion, marketing and distribution of a cadre of high–quality products from art and craft to music, food and film. Most practitioners simply do not have the institutional framework or the working capital necessary to appropriately master these areas.
Innovation may also be found by local artists and artisans making their work more readily available and affordable locally via hire purchase.
Of course, we must not forget the tremendous opportunities that the Internet and e-commerce afford us.
It allows us access to a global market enhancing the export opportunities already secured for the creative economy through access to Europe garnered by the Economic Partnership Agreement.
Appropriate infrastructure has also to be addressed as all creative efforts require a literal and proverbial stage on which to produce, perform and parade. Multi-purpose spaces, audio-visual facilities and fully equipped design studios are all urgently required to reduce the costs incurred by our artists and promoters and to allow for the flourishing of a film industry.
A lone state-owned television station must become a thing of the past if we are to stimulate creativity and derive a livelihood from the commercial activities of the creative and performing arts.
Finally, in a small economy, partnership and synergy are both vital to the sustainability of any commercial enterprise.
The survival of the cultural industries is grounded in the establishment of synergies both within and external to the sector.
Barbados is fortunate in that all of the components required for a cultural industries platform already exist.
With the introduction of the requisite funding and fiscal incentives, legislation and appropriate institutions, infrastructure, expanded training and strategic partnerships, the cultural industries will be poised to show off their true colours to Barbados, the region and the world.
Our one asset is our people. Let their creativity flourish and enhance our humanity and our wealth as a Caribbean people!

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