EDITORIAL: Culture the new economy booster
LONG BEFORE GOVERNMENT had pronounced that the cultural industries would be a critical plank for the country’s economic development, it was obvious many individuals had seen the great possibilities. Admittedly, this is a sector often fraught with uncertainty and risk.
This country has a host of cultural activities throughout the year which offer diverse job opportunities. But elitist thinking among many Barbadians has long deemed careers in this subgroup inferior.
It is a view which must be dispelled.
At the same time, those offering their services in the cultural industries must act and behave professionally if they are to earn the public’s respect.
So from the staging of the various jazz shows to Laff It Off to Crop Over and NIFCA and Gospelfest and whatever else is offered, we need to look at the real benefits the island can derive from these activities both in terms of employment generation and the earning of foreign exchange.
The curtain is about to come down on this year’s annual Holders Season while the activities for the Reggae Festival are about to begin.
These two differing events attract their captive and diverse markets, but both are now firm fixtures on the annual cultural calendar.
What the cultural industries offer is value added in terms of their spin-off benefits. There is no denying that businesses of various sizes, ranging from cosmetology and the retail fashion business to taxi operators and food vendors, are all able to add to and benefit from the economic pie through activities in this sphere.
In addition, there are payments for VAT and the other statutory requirements as well as insurance coverage.
The cultural industries need to have the support of both Government and the private sector, since they all stand to gain. With the appropriate infrastructure, the country can generate the type of positive returns it needs.
Therefore, the enactment of the Cultural Industries Development Act is much anticipated. More will be required in terms of a cohesive system addressing financing, the development of skills, marketing and branding and strengthening the linkages with tourism, that is, a sustained focus on the strategic development of cultural tourism.
With the staging of various entertainment and sporting events, Barbados is developing a base of talented and skilled personnel in very technical and creative areas.
This talent pool engages areas such as sound and stage management, marketing and promotion, safety and security services for VIPs and has also opened up opportunities for a number of small businesses across the Eastern Caribbean.
The cultural industries are producing a new type of businessman in Barbados.
It is not about trading, in which many had become successful. It is about risk-taking with no guarantee of a return.
The country is the better for the role being played by these cultural entrepreneurs. They have also opened doors to new opportunities.