Although long in coming, the Simpson Miller administration has gone public with plans, developed by the Entertainment Advisory Board, to drive growth in the creative industries.
These plans include the regular staging of events, such as the Arts in the Park concert held recently at Hope Gardens in St Andrew, to showcase emerging talents to business executives in the international entertainment industry.
Like Kingsley Cooper, who heads the Entertainment Advisory Board, this newspaper hopes that this initiative will lead to record deals and major success for some of these acts.
We are also supportive of plans to package and market a range of cultural events under the label '90 Days of Summer', which should boost hotel occupancy during the normally soft summers. Indeed, if Jamaica's entertainment industry is properly developed with standards put in place, it becomes a year-round feature - like a Disney World - that foreign and local patrons will enjoy.
For this to occur, we suggest, there are some necessary preconditions: marketing, product development, and financing. In the area of marketing, the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment already has in place the infrastructure and assets to get the job done. With Jamaica's brand so high internationally, the time is right for some marketing deals to be signed that can have medium- and long-term benefits in promoting the country's cultural industries, including sports.
In the area of product development, the promulgation and adherence to standards is critical. Chief among these is compliance with the noise abatement regulations which, happily, Mr Cooper's board has been addressing. Allied to this is the licensing of proper places of amusement. For example, the authorities will need to identify some entertainment districts in places such as Negril, Port Henderson Road in Portmore, among others.
Product development also involves training of the range of talents and skills required in the creative industries, including management of artistes and events. The relevant tertiary institutions need to adjust their programme offerings to meet these actual/potential labour market needs. The premier arts training institution, Edna Manley College, needs to extend its reach nationally through partnerships.
Perhaps the most critical input needed to achieve sustained growth in the creative industries is buy-in from corporate Jamaica. As Mr Cooper aptly states, "We need our key stakeholders to understand that there is a real opportunity to create an environment in which Jamaica can prosper by developing these industries."
Financially speaking, this means suitable credit schemes to facilitate a range of activities. Perhaps there is a role here for venture capital.
There is advantage in the players in the creative industries organising themselves into viable organisations. Mr Cooper's board could help in this regard by collaborating with organisations such as JAMPRO and the small and micro-business agencies to offer business development skills training/services to operators in the creative industries. Importantly, artistes and artists should register with their copyrights bodies to ensure the collection of royalties.
We commend Mr Cooper's board and the parent body, the Ministry of Tourism and Entertainment, for thinking outside the box during these challenging economic times. Indeed, we recommend this ministry's approach to others: each arm of central government should seek to identify ways to add value to the economy and/or earn revenue for the national treasury.
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