Culture boost


A bill that proposes to set the stage for future economic growth in Barbados, and better equip local culture industry practitioners to earn some of the many billions of dollars circulating in the sector was unveiled in the House of Assembly this morning.

In an estimated two-hour pre-lunch presentation related to the Cultural Industries Development Bill, Minister Stephen Lashley told the first sitting of the post-summer session of Parliament, attended by more than a dozen entertainers and other stakeholders, that this measure would pave the way for Barbados to follow other countries that are shifting focus from traditional industries to the creative sector, to gain significant growth.

Lashley said the main objectives of the bill were to provide for the establishment of a regulatory framework to facilitate and encourage the sustainable growth and development of cultural industries, funding for cultural projects and duty-free concessions and income tax benefits in respect of cultural projects and related matters.

The bill also provides for the setting up of a Cultural Industries Development Authority to promote and assist the cultural sector in suitable marketing strategies.

“The beneficiaries of this bill are vast. They include artists, they include the private sector, non-governmental organizations and they include Government. But for me, Mr Speaker, the cultural practitioners and the supporting entities and enterprises hold for me a special place within the context of this proposed legislation,” Lashley pointed out.

He listed some of them as Kadooment bandleaders, singers, calypsonians, songwriters, musicians, arrangers, managers, dancers, fashion designers, dressmakers, playwrights, promoters and owners of places of entertainment.

Lashley said the Cultural Industries Development Fund, with initial assets of $50 million, which was announced in the 2011 budget, was now integrated into the bill for the purpose of financing cultural projects, providing grants, supporting training, participation in local and overseas workshops, marketing and exporting of products and services.

Lashley said $10 million would be made available every year for the next five years.

Incentives along with concessions on import duties for musical equipment are also benefits to be derived under this proposed law, which the Minister of Culture also disclosed that the long dearth of a facility for the performing arts would soon be a thing of the past, because the Empire Cinema, which had remained abandoned for many year, would shortly be refurbished as a performing arts centre that also provides for craftpersons.

The Cabinet minister told the Lower Chamber, as well, that the Government, through the Commission For Pan African Affairs, would soon formally launch an Identity Renewal And Social Programming Initiative aimed at “refreshing” Barbadians, particularly young people about their African ancestry.

He announced that the Government was on the verge of commissioning a mapping study of the cultural industries sector, to determine its true contribution to this country’s gross domestic product. This study, he stated, would be done in collaboration with the University of the West Indies.

“We have already got, Mr Speaker, some expert guidance through a UNESCO consultancy which was completed only earlier this year; and we now have a model on which we can proceed to have an arrangement done for the mapping of our cultural industry sector,” Lashley asserted.

He said the mapping would allow the Government, private sector, cultural practitioners to easily assess the input value of the cultural industries in a way that creates a more scientific approach to how the input is regarded.

The chamber was also informed that the Government was considering re-engineering this country’s embassies and high commissions to give presence and visibility to the products and services of the cultural sector. Lashley said he would be following recommendations to stage exhibitions in the island’s main source markets such as in North America and would soon hold detailed discussions with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade on the matter.

He said the Government would be taking NIFCA and Crop Over to the international community, particularly the niche markets.

Lashley, informed the house, too, that, in addition to Rihanna, his ministry may soon have to appoint other cultural ambassadors from within Barbados itself. (EJ) 

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