EDITORIAL: Benefiting from culture
IT’S NOT DIFFICULT to find a few words that effectively summarise the response to P.J. Patterson’s recent plan for the integration of the Caribbean’s creative talents and cultural industries into the region’s economies.
In his address at the recent 19th annual Caribbean Multi-National Business Conference in The Bahamas, Patterson, a former prime minister of Jamaica, quite rightly said that the cultural industries should be packaged into a regional programme that creates job, provides rewarding outlets for the Caribbean’s talent and attracts more visitors to our shores.
We couldn’t agree more.
Incidentally, after reading and hearing about Patterson’s plan, Perry Christie, The Bahamas Prime Minister and the incoming CARICOM chairman, put aside a prepared text he was to deliver at the conference’s closing awards gala, and spoke from the heart, saying he was on board with the former prime minister’s ideas.
These views are in consonance with clear plans already espoused in Barbados.
We speak of the region’s music, visual and performing arts, fashion, craft, food, architecture, literature, drama, software development, animation, sports and the exciting and colourful cultural festivals.
The Caribbean has many of the leading track and field stars on the planet, Usain Bolt among them; music with a global following; and cultural festivals that appeal to tens of millions from North America, Europe and elsewhere every year.
With literary works produced by Nobel laureates and a Commonwealth prize-winner; fashion designers who dress top models of rich nations, and possessing some of the globe’s magnificent environmental features, the Caribbean is certainly well endowed.
Cultural industries, sports among them, are big business and must be treated as such. What a pity that the abandonment of the recent Indian tour by some of the West Indies cricketing stars has put the future of the lucrative sport in a perilous state.
Responsible behaviour by the players, an efficient management, and the goodwill of the International Cricket Council can rescue a sport that helped to put our region on the global map.
What we must do now with alacrity and efficiency is to harness these assets, market them as a cohesive programme and ensure that people at all levels of society benefit.
As a first step, CARICOM leaders at the next summit early next year under Christie’s leadership should endorse the plan and get our experts cracking, knowing that it will take some time to bring it to full fruition.
Both the University of the West Indies and the Caribbean Development Bank will have crucial roles to play, including conducting research, recommending approaches to product development and determining what Patterson called the scope, size, value and development potential of the cultural and related industries.
After all, these island-nations, coastal states and territories are overflowing with highly acclaimed products of our creative imagination.
Let’s act on these matters.