Wednesday, August 25, 2010

2010-11 a crucial Budget to diversify economy through arts and culture

Trinidad and Tobago would be missing a crucial opportunity for diversifying the national economy if Government’s 2010-2011 Budget does not contain the necessary provisions to propel the arts and cultural sector from dependency to self-sustainability.
Arts and culture is a billion dollar industry elsewhere. It is the kind of returns from museums, from performances abroad, from sales and downloads of a range of cultural products in a world hungry for new entertainment on the one hand; and on the other, from fulfilling the cravings for new reflections of self and identity that our multiculturalism can provide. It has the potential to help individuals and communities to sustainable livelihoods. However, the structures and systems and investments necessary that can help us take advantage of this are sorely lacking.
The potential is not only our music, song, dance, drama, literature but outside-the-box industries of fashion and cuisine. We are sitting on a multi-million dollar revenue earner in literary tourism, but there are as yet no real facilities by which we can capture this international interest. Digitisation of access to these is also crucial. It is the duty of Government to create the environment to enabling and facilitate this; to promote public-private sector partnerships with individuals and groups in the sector, and to ensure that no one group or groups of organisations have the monopoly of access to these facilities.
At a time when the world is rapidly moving towards forms of energy other than petroleum, it is ridiculous to consider further incentives and tax reductions to the oil sector, when efforts should be concentrated at making that sector compensate for the imbalances it has created, and developing those sectors that have longer-term and more sustainable potential, particularly those related to the arts and culture sector. Europe and North America are trying to ‘buy up’ as much world cultures as possible, we seem all-too-willing to sellout our cultural assets and not even to the highest bidder– just look at the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and CARIFORUM.
The 2010-11 Budget should present clear measures to provide effective tax and other incentives to the creative sector for the development of talents, products, communities along with a short, medium and long term vision that gives culture its rightful place at the centre of national development, not just piecemeal and tokenism. That would also include revising the mainstream (preschool/primary to tertiary level) education curriculum, teacher training, and education materials to reflect and enhance appreciation for local arts and multiculturalism, along with intelligently utilising the new arts megastructures to effectively cultivate and provide opportunities for creative enterprise and activities easily accessible to the masses. With this should come review of all ‘national’ competitions to lift the standards and quality of products being awarded by state and private sector funds, while helping to facilitate development of audiences, readers and participants. Where is our National Arts Council that is equipped and resourced to pull together and make holistic and effective the work of the National Carnival Commission, National Archives, National Trust, National Libraries and Museums for instance?
The spin offs are not only tangible economic benefits, but other social spinoffs – reduced crime, poverty, stress on social services and the intangibles of civic ownership, and national pride.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Monday, August 9, 2010

Commonwealth praise for book on Kamla's speeches

Commonwealth praise for book on Kamla's speeches

  • Published on Jun 6, 2010, 12:01 am AST
  • Updated on Jan 28, 2011, 4:07 am AST

A valuable addition to research on gender and women in politics in the Commonwealth. That's how Dr Mark Collins, Director of the Commonwealth Foundation described the new book by Dr Kris Rampersad, Through The Political Glass Ceiling —the Race to Prime Ministership by Trinidad & Tobago's first female, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Selected Speeches. 

Speaking at the Commonwealth launch of the book at the Partners' Forum of the Ninth Women's Affairs Ministers Meeting (9WAMM) in Barbados on Friday, Dr Collins noted the need for research and documentation identified by various speakers and workshops of the meeting. He stated that the book, and the project for promoting social research and publishing which it
launches, are answers to that need.
Reviews Through the Politicla Glass Ceiling

He also pointed out that it is not common for a chair of the Commonwealth to change mid-term as happened in this case with the change of Government in Trinidad and Tobago which makes Mrs. Persad-Bissessar, the first female Caribbean chair-in-office of the Commonwealth. The launch was attended by representatives from across the Commonwealth. A copy of Through the Political Glass Ceiling was presented to Chairperson of the Foundation, Simone de Comarmond who endorsed Dr Collins appreciation of the book's as a needed documentation on gender development. 

The launch was in keeping with the Forum's theme, Gender Issues in the Economic Crisis Recovery and Beyond: Women as Agents of Transformation. All proceeds of the launch go towards supporting Caribbean research and publishing. Compiled, with introduction, contexts and analyses by Dr Kris Rampersad, the book features selected speeches of Mrs. Persad-Bissessar against the backdrop of the roles of gender and geo-politics among other factors in the contest for leadership between Mrs Persad-Bissessar and the country's longest standing political entity, the People's National Movement.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Make this a budget for Arts and Culture

    The 2010 Budget should be devoted to strengthening Trinidad and Tobago’s arts and culture so we move beyond the lip service and put the proper structure, facilities and mechanisms in place to take advantage of the rich multiculturalism and arts for the benefit of both our human and political development, nationally, regionally and internationally.
     It is now well-recognised that our arts and culture are among our most untapped renewable resource. It has untapped value not only to us here in the region but internationally.  It is time that the country where was invented the only musical instrument in recent times; which has an as yet incomparable record of social cohesion despite its multicultural diversity, takes its place as a leader in the world cultural stage.
    We also need to change our perception of the sector - as not just its products as literature, performance, language design, film, song, music, dance, which are all underutilised – but also how we utilise the spirit of resilience and creative impulses that drives our capacity to rise above our circumstances, as well as how we leverage our diasporic connections which include our ancestral countries of origin, but also elements of the T&T and Caribbean diasporas that we are developing across the globe. That way we will make our experiences of slavery and indentureship truly emancipating.  
    That can only come from meaningful diversification and more equitable treatment of groups, and an enabling environment and infrastructure for investment in the arts and culture, similar to that which has been given to petroleum over the decades, to make it possible that the enormous cadre of talent available locally can face the competitive global marketplace. The 2010 Budget must give substance to the continuing rhetoric that ‘culture is the new oil’ and give to the sector the kind of support petroleum has received through tax incentives, development of infrastructure, and facilitation. It should facilitate communities to appreciate and protect their cultural practices and assets that can form a vibrant base for the new tourism that caters to special interests as the old tourism flounders in the face of the economic crisis. It should project infrastructural development as to provide for such a community focus, and at the same time provide mechanisms to the international communities – international agencies as those of the United Nations and UNESCO, the European Union, and the Commonwealth and utilise our foreign missions to forge partnerships that includes our various diasporas of origin which effectively encompasses most of the world - also an as yet unquantified asset.
    If we are serious about weaning ourselves away from dependency on petroleum, and dependency as a whole we must do away with the ad hoc treatment of arts and culture where groups and individuals, and individual cultural sectors are subject to whatever partisan interests the powers of the day may hold, and establish a cultural policy along with programmes and actions that will standardize State treatment of the arts and culture sector that will hold for all.     
    “We tend to underestimate the potential of the arts and culture, and often speak of it either in terms of economic or human development – but we are in a position to take full advantage of both elements – to use our cultural resilience and get rid of the ‘gimme gimme’ syndrome to forge the kind of social transformation that will secure for our sustainable development for generations to come.