All This Talk About Culture and What?
… £1.8million has been handed to the Caribbean island of Barbados to build a hotel and leisure complex where 200 youngsters will be trained each year in hospitality management. The revelations will intensify the row over the UK’s bloated aid budget, which will soon take up 0.7 per cent of our GDP at a time when vital public services are being pared to the bone…
In terms of GDP per capita, Barbados is wealthier than Portugal, Croatia and Hungary. But the EU has spent millions of pounds on the Hotel PomMarine complex, plus a forensic science laboratory, a language centre and support for the nation’s financial sector.
Mail Online (Daniel Martin)
The excerpt formed the lead stories in two of the United Kingdom’s leading dailies this week, the Mail Online and The Telegraph. One would never guess though if a half interested Barbadian scanned the local media.
As Europe continues to battle their economies which have stayed south, a growing voice for the UK government to curb aid to countries like Barbados has been getting louder. To quote The Telegraph article, “a new poll today by ICM for The Sunday Telegraph showed that 70 per cent of people questioned said overseas aid should be scaled down, not increased. Two-thirds said a ring-fence, which protects it from spending cuts, was wrong.” The unsuccessful challenge of the APD should have taught Barbadians by now that the British government has determined a strategy to draw the wagons around the fire and beat home drums very loud.
Of more than peripheral interest to the Barbados government, Minister Stephen Lashley in particular, has been the revelation quoted in the report that “…the international aid industry had made millionaires out of so-called ‘poverty barons’ – consultants running aid programmes abroad. At an event for consultants held last Thursday in Whitehall, the chairman of the meeting told participants: “There’s lots of money! We’ve all got money!” .
Minister Lashley has promised Barbadians that the Cultural Industries Bill (CIB) will be debated in parliament before the term of this government expires. In its current configuration BU has opined that the draft CIB is a rubbish document and will do nothing to kickstart the cultural and creative industries in Barbados. BU has reported on the role of Andrew Senior and cohorts, a consultant sourced with EU/UNESCO grant funding. With the focus by the British media beginning to erringly target abuse of grant funding it is left to be seen if Minister Lashley’s EU/UNESCO objective can be satisfied. Of course there is always hope and with insights from the BU family of experts we will freely pass along advice in a transparent manner, no need to invoke Chatham House Rules.
The challenge for Barbados at this stage is how do we avoid a still birth of the CIB. There is an urgent need to build out a strategy which avoids the censure of the European media and authorities in the current environment. What the government needs to do is to provide moral and financial support to a non-government study group. Then that study group needs to look into things like:
an association operating as a union, with international union affiliations for creatives, which provides things like terms of employment, insurance, legal cover and representation, protection of copyright and intellectual property rights etc.;
to study tax incentives available in other countries and how they work and adapt them for use in Barbados;
education for people in the arts and culture so that they are qualified to see employment anywhere in the world;
updating copyright and intellectual property laws etc.
Once a non-governmental association of artists operating as a union is established which arranges things like retirement savings plans, legal and copyright protection etc., it can be affiliated to its international counterparts like the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) of which the only CARICOM member is Jamaica, and the International Federation of Actors (FIA) of which there are NO CARICOM members, and UNI MEI (that covers a vast range of artists) and IATSE INTERNATIONAL (that covers technicians in the arts).
The problem for the government is that to be effective all implementation is best undertaken regionally and not just by Barbados. It needs a regional overview. The Arts is a multi-billion dollar industry and the government of Barbados must treat it with the respect it merits i.e. if it wants payback.
The British Chancellor of the Exchequer highlighted it in his last budget that he wants to create an atmosphere that would attract some billions of pounds a year to Britain from the arts. Stephen Lashley, at a speech at BCC, spoke of attracting $800 million a year to Barbados through the Arts. Given what has been exposed by the CIB to date it is evident that Minister Lashley is clueless how to go about energizing this new sector. His advisers and his “consultant” are also clueless.
With an election on the horizon perhaps there is still hope.