IN PROGRESS / IN HOUSE

Questions: Why is creative economy research important? How does this research contribute to policy, advocacy and strategies for the development of creative economies? How can we learn from other countries who have defined their creative industries and positioned it to advance  economic growth? Why shape a national creative economy agenda?

Answer:  People. Our greatest asset.

Economic Growth Council Report: No CCI?

 PUBLISHED 021016 / THE JAMAICA OBSERVER

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the Economic Growth Council’s supplement published in the press on Sunday, September 25, 2016, and again on Wednesday, September 28, 2016, delivers its only other creative expression in the signatures of the chairman and members of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the indecipherability of which compels the consideration of each as a work of abstract art: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byip_hJ-Ow4MSFVpaS1wTEJnNXM/view?usp=drivesdk

It then proceeds to ignore the one industry that could play a key role in contributing to the overall quality of life in Jamaica and its attractiveness as a place to live, work and invest.

There is not a single mention in any of the eight growth initiatives put forward that positions Jamaica to tap into one of the largest industries in the world: the global cultural and creative industries. Worth US$2,250 billion, and growing at an annual rate of five per cent (International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers [CISAC], United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO], Ernst & Young, 2015), this industry —which exists to create, produce, and/or distribute copyright materials — affords Jamaica its greatest foreign exchange earning potential and should be placed at the forefront of the search for economic solutions.

Even where STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) could have become STEAM, giving the ‘A’rts access to training and certification, which the council says the areas of STEM especially need, our culture and creatives have been denied.

Perhaps the oversight is as a result of the cultural and creative industries not being represented by a single, vocal organisation — something for the creative community to consider — but by many in the trenches: Book Industry Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Association of Composers Authors and Publishers, Jamaica’s Film and Television Association, Jamaica Music Society, Jamaica Reggae Industry Association, Jamaican Writers’ Society, Jamaica’s Cannabis Licensing Authority, and the tremendous efforts of the National Cultural and Creative Industries Council come to mind.

Human creativity is the ultimate economic resource, and Jamaica’s collective talent pool is an ocean. In it are artists and artisans, musicians, designers, sound technicians and selectors, information techies, and coders. In it are writers, dancers, directors, actors, athletes and set builders. In it are cameramen, anchormen and editors.

Handling them are event managers, personal managers, business managers, stage managers, road managers, prop managers, accountants, and lawyers. Making them look and feel good are costumers, foodies, stylists, and make-up geniuses. Bolstering them is half of Jamaica’s population — some 1.4 million people under the age of 30 – one-third of whom are in the (employable) 20-29 age group (Statistical Institute of Jamaica, 2013) who, as the former youth and culture minister suggested, “can provide Jamaica with recruits for an industry which is typically youth-led and worthy of serious government investment”.

Yes, Michael Lee-Chin, the “natural resources and human potential that we have been blessed with have not been converted to sustainable economic growth for the majority of our independent experience”.

Our creatives may not have been prioritised at the Economic Growth Council table, but even when ignored they work steadily on their own, day and night, to produce musical works, things of beauty, and feats worthy of deep consideration that can only enhance our lives. All in the absence of significant Government support and incentives — while foreign artists (and others) have come to Jamaica, immersed themselves in our culture and used it to propel themselves to the top of the charts or to the pinnacle of success — our benefit has been little more than the public relations that we receive from being their inspiration.

But there is so much more.

 

While the value of public relations can be quantified, so too can the contribution of the cultural and creative industries to gross domestic product (GDP). In 2012, the Planning Institute of Jamaica reported the contribution to GDP of recreational, cultural and sporting activities had been gradually increasing over the past 10 years. In 2010, the Bank of Jamaica reported that Jamaica earned US$23.8 million from cultural services — more than the earnings from services in finance, business, insurance, and construction combined. The Bank of Jamaica also noted two musical artistes who earned more annually than Jamaica’s entire banana industry.

Dr Vanus James, in his 2007 findings for ‘The Economic Contribution of Copyright-Based Industries in Jamaica’, indicated that these industries generated about J$29 billion or 4.8 per cent of GDP.

Granted, as Dr Keith Nurse said long ago, that the creative industries are not seriously regarded as an economic sector, and so their value goes largely undocumented — a notion that may be corrected by the Planning Institute of Jamaica-sponsored creative industries business plan, whose release we anxiously await — but the fact of the matter is that the demand for cultural goods and creative content will not stop. And, as one of the world’s top brands, culture is one area in which Jamaica has significant global competitive advantage.

As a Jamaica Chamber of Commerce member said: “We cannot hope to keep doing what we have always done and anticipate different results,” yet the Economic Growth Council report trots out the familiar crime-fighting, bureaucracy-squelching, Diaspora-grooming, agro park and economic zone-building, downtown redeveloping, business process outsourcing, and tourism, road, energy, mining and water projects, and the lack of imagination.

The Economic Growth Council report makes clear that the initiatives presented are not exhaustive and that public comment is welcome. One comment is this: Our accomplishments in music, sport and culture are a gift from God, which have not only brought Jamaica its greatest glory, they have brought all Jamaicans together and have confirmed our natural ability to lead the world. I urge the Economic Growth Council to consider this in its plan to move the country forward.

 

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