If everything goes according to plan, Barbados could have its Cultural Industries Development Bill completed and enacted by the middle of this year.

With this in mind, the Division of Culture and Sports is working assiduously to ensure its stakeholders and members of the public get an opportunity to thoroughly examine the draft Bill and offer suggestions on it.

And, Consultant in Cultural Industries Development with the Division, Andrea King, has pointed out that a number of related interest groups had already submitted comments from their respective sectors; these include: the Association of Music Entrepreneurs, the Barbados Film and Video Association, the Fashion and Design Association of Barbados and the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries.

She explained that "some individuals have also sent submissions on the Bill. These were considered and a second draft of the Bill prepared. This is the one we are looking at again to see if those meaningful comments that came in, and are pertinent, have been included… The Bill has also been sent to various Ministries, on whom it will impact, for comment and some responses have been received."

However, she urged the public to "peruse the document with the proverbial fine-tooth comb", become familiar with it and share their views on the Bill since the Ministry was still accepting written submissions from members of the public.

Cultural industries include three broad areas – arts which incorporates the performing, visual and literary aspects; design, which includes advertising, architecture, web and software, graphics and communications; and media that include broadcast, digital media, film and video, recorded music and publishing.

Underscoring the importance of the Bill, the Cultural Industries Consultant noted that it was aimed at providing a broad legislative framework to enable the full development of the sector. According to her, there would be funding for cultural projects, and duty free concessions, as well as income tax allowances for bona fide cultural practitioners.

"One of the things that cultural practitioners, in particular, cry out for is seed capital to assist at the outset. Since the cultural industries are not yet recognised by traditional financial institutions in Barbados, and intellectual property is not yet considered collateral, it is hard to get seed money from the traditional lending institutions such as banks. So, having an instrument like the Bill, in which Government will seek to provide partial funding for feasible cultural projects, is going to be good, because it is a novel avenue for prospective cultural entrepreneurs, who do not have working capital, to access it," she explained.

She, however, stressed that the $50 million which Government promised the cultural industries sector over a five-year period could not be tapped into immediately. "We are discussing how best to put this money to use and the National Cultural Foundation and the Ministry of Culture are working out the logistics, especially the most appropriate and businesslike modus operandi to employ in the future execution of the policy.

"This is why the consultation with the cultural industries practitioners is so crucial, as it will provide them with an avenue to say what they think is the best way to put the money to work to develop the sector," she argued.??

Ms. King pointed out that increased emphasis on the development of cultural industries was a global phenomenon, stating they had emerged over the past 20 years in Europe, the United States, Asia and Africa. She continued: "The traditional sectors have matured and we have to look for new ways to earn money for the country. The services sector has been identified as one that has the potential to be an economic platform and the cultural industries fall within that domain."

She expressed the view that Barbados had been setting the foundation for the emergence of a vibrant cultural industries sector over the past 20 years, and a lot of people had come through the education system and had been trained in that area. "Now we have to take it a step further and harness all of this investment to make it work in a more beneficial and productive way for Barbados," she urged.

Meanwhile, Government is working to create a comprehensive database of cultural practitioners and those persons involved in the industry are encourage to register with the NCF.

So, as government provides various avenues for cultural practitioners to contribute to and scrutinise the draft Cultural Industries Development Bill, including the one-day consultation tomorrow at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, it is hoped that the creative sector would soon be able to benefit from this important piece of legislation when it eventually gets parliamentary approval. That, in itself, would be a landmark occasion, since it would provide the formal basis and open up several possibilities and opportunities for cultural industry exponents, as well as for the long-term development of this fast emerging sector.??????


Author: S. Austin

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