JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Ladies and Gentlemen, join me in creative imagination. Close your eyes and picture this:A backdrop of unfurling mountain ranges, towering peaks and lush vegetation - sixty thousand revelers sway in unison, to Jamaica's music, reggae music, enchanted by the warm, friendly atmosphere.
  • The voice of Bob Marley fills the air with a haunting melody and the mass of people ingest every thought-provoking line. Around them are vendors selling Jamaican cultural products: jerk chicken, Red Stripe Beer, condiments and a range of memorabilia that effortlessly sum up life in the Caribbean.
  • No, it is not Jamaica. It was in fact the Osopo in the Province of Udine in Northern Italy. The event was Rototom Sunsplash, July 2008, the 15th staging of the biggest reggae festival in Europe.

Ladies and Gentlemen, join me in creative imagination. Close your eyes and picture this:A backdrop of unfurling mountain ranges, towering peaks and lush vegetation – sixty thousand revelers sway in unison, to Jamaica’s music, reggae music, enchanted by the warm, friendly atmosphere.

The voice of Bob Marley fills the air with a haunting melody and the mass of people ingest every thought-provoking line. Around them are vendors selling Jamaican cultural products: jerk chicken, Red Stripe Beer, condiments and a range of memorabilia that effortlessly sum up life in the Caribbean.

No, it is not Jamaica. It was in fact the Osopo in the Province of Udine in Northern Italy. The event was Rototom Sunsplash, July 2008, the 15th staging of the biggest reggae festival in Europe.

Yes, 60,000 plus Europeans and people from other backgrounds enjoying their own slice of Jamaica deep in the reaches of Europe – a perfect example of the trade in culture.

This festival, while contributing to the economic development of the region, in turn provides Jamaican musicians and singers with a good return on their talents.

This example, ladies and gentlemen, demonstrates the reciprocity that is possible under the Economic Partnership Agreement.

The UNCTAD 2009 Report on Creative Industries asserted that Creativity is synonymous with Jamaica. Yet, our great talents like Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Usain Bolt and others too numerous to mention, represent but a taste of Jamaica.

Our human capital resides in the power of our culture. But we are challenged in the development of our Creative Industries Policy as we seek to establish the framework within which we can use our successes to expand the possibilities and ride our challenges to create a roadmap to achieve our vision.

We have the potential to solve our economic problems using our cultural resources. Our creative sectors now account for 5.2 per cent of GDP – more than our traditional mining sector. We could magnify this threefold if we had the capacity to harness the talents and create the structures which give form to a vibrant creative industry.

Jamaica has had a cultural policy in place since 2003. In fact, a revision is now being conducted within the context of the Economic Partnership Agreement. As we undergo this exercise we are guided by the country’s overall development plan to the year 2030, “Vision 2030”.

The revised cultural policy focuses on: . Culture and identity construction for social transformation and community development. . The enhancement of Jamaica’s international image with culture and sports at the centre of the brand.. The promotion and creation of cultural heritage.. The promotion of creative industries through the establishment of a Cultural Industries Council and a Creative Industries Enhancement Fund for wealth creation and poverty reduction. Strengthening the relationship between culture and traditional development sectors including physical culture (sports), education, tourism and agriculture.

But even as Jamaica opens her arms and embrace Europe, we are mindful of some of the challenges we face.

Local Content – We recognise that, for a variety of reasons, we have developed very little local content for television programming and film. If we have little or no output of local content, then we have little or nothing to market. We need to build capacity and seek financing for the creation of content.

Co-production Agreements – Jamaica is perhaps the only Caribbean country that has a co-production treaty with a European country, the UK. Even so, this treaty does not adequately account for the movements in technology and the approaches needed – for example, new media including animation etc.

Financing – There are few financing instruments for the creative industries and even less for audio-visuals in the Caribbean. Jamaica and the Caribbean recognise that our EU counterparts have many such instruments that can be extended to us as part of our development plan under the EPA.

Incentives – There is very little in the public policy space to encourage investment in the regional Creative Industries Sector. The EPA again offers possibilities to deal with this, as it promotes direct investment by European companies in Cariforum. Culture Policy – We need to swiftly harmonise regional polices in the areas of culture, media and telecommunications.

Market Penetration – Even with the limited content we now produce, poor market access remains the major challenge to the creative industries of developing nations like Jamaica. The potential of the 500 million strong European market is among the most appealing elements of the EPA.

The challenge will be for the European Union to work closely with us to ensure that the recently signed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) delivers on the successes that it promotes. One such is greater access to European markets by Caribbean cultural practitioners, professionals and products. Through the EPA Caribbean cultural professionals and practitioners are given preferential access to European markets for their cultural goods and services.

The Protocol on Cultural Cooperation is based on UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity, to which Jamaica and Europe are signatories. The Convention promotes preferential access to European markets for developing countries like Jamaica.

The protocol is therefore meant to “provide ample room for collaboration, to allow access for Caribbean creative products and practitioners, through special mechanisms, which still need to be defined.

The reality is that Europe through the EPA and in tandem with the terms of the UNESCO Convention should:.

  • Provide support and expertise to countries like Jamaica for the development of policies and measures for the creation, production, and distribution of domestic cultural goods and services.
  • Provide special fiscal measures and incentives for cultural enterprises from countries like Jamaica such as tax credits and double taxation avoidance agreements.
  • Provide financial aid to improve access of cultural goods and services to European markets, through support and assistance schemes. Organize fairs, exhibitions and special events to promote cultural expressions from developing countries .
  • Encourage investment in cultural enterprises from developing countries through the reduction or elimination of tariffs, etc..
  • Provide capacity building and training to strengthen and integrate professional networks from developing countries into those of the EU.
  • Provide developmental assistance for infrastructure enhancement, capacity building and professional training for the strengthening of domestic cultural sector.

However, it must be noted that for the Caribbean, the principal mode of supply of these goods and services is most often through the presence of natural persons. This is potentially a non-starter since Europe will advise that cooperation and trade arrangements do not affect immigration regimes. The fact then is that there is a great threat to this arrangement unless Europe launches a process of facilitating mobility, including entry, circulation and temporary stay of artists and other cultural professionals and practitioners from developing countries through improved and rapid visa access and lower costs of visas.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are all agreed and aggrieved over the attitudes of financial planners towards the creative sectors. But we have the opportunity of a lifetime – we are now in a position to change perception with a new reality based on performance.

While the traditional economic sectors remain paralysed by the global economic downturn, the relevance and potential of the creative sectors economy becomes more glaring. We must seize on this moment. Let us identify the similarities in our differences and put them to work.

Ladies and gentlemen, can you imagine that a small country like Jamaica – a dot on the map, a population of two and a half million – has produced the fastest man in the world, the second fastest man in the world and the fastest women in the world. We have given the world its newest religion – Rastafari. We created a music that has penetrated all corners of the world. We are small, but awesome!

When all our creative peoples of all our countries are able to maximise their potential, then will we begin to see the character of a global society which reflects the best of mankind and achievements beyond our imagination. Yes, we can do this..together, in partnership and cooperation. Let us embrace each other and get the job done.

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