In last Monday’s budget statement, there were glaring omissions common to the two brief statements relating to the creative industries and tourism respectively.
The following is the sum total of what was said about the creative industries sector:
“Carifesta XIV, hosted by Trinidad and Tobago, underscored the strides we have made in the expansion of our creative industries. Moreover, with the resourceful Film TT and Music TT we are making efforts to widen and deepen the industry.
“Trinidad and Tobago is becoming a preferred destination for film production in the region. International and foreign film productions have been taking place. A Locations Data Base has provided a user-friendly online catalogue of stunning and diverse film locations across Trinidad and Tobago, and this is proving to be an enabler to market Trinidad and Tobago as a premier destination for film production.
“Trinidad and Tobago is creating a pool of local artists through the Live Music Districts, which have been held at 58 participating venues throughout Port of Spain and its environs. We have witnessed 537 performances and the Live Music District was featured as part of Carifesta XIV.”
Next, when one looks under the heading Tourism, the first paragraph refers to a reformed ‘structure of arrangements for improving efficiency in the marketing of our tourism product. The Tourism Trinidad Destination Management Company Limited has been marketing Trinidad as a destination for meetings, conferences and exhibitions’.
Both statements betray ignorance of the true extent of the creative sectors. In addition, what has been totally missed is the relationship of our unique culture to tourism and the obvious synergy between the sectors.
The limited statement on the creative industries also contains boasts, the credibility of which will depend on the minister of culture’s contribution to the budget debate.
She will have to do a lot more than rely on the reputed success of Carifesta, which is only held in Trinidad and Tobago occasionally, and which was deeply scarred by the ministerial and bureaucratic one per cent hoarding tickets for so-called VIPs.
Likewise, the credibility of the statement on tourism will depend on what the minister of tourism tells the parliament, but he will be chained-up by the grave omissions that I have identified.
The tourism statement continues: “We are upgrading and improving the aesthetics of a number of sites, attractions and beaches throughout Trinidad and Tobago.”
I hope that the tourism minister will acknowledge that Maracas Bay has been turned into a near slum. He may be truthful about this reality because he has been commendably candid about the failure of investments of previous governments in promoting Carnival—more than TT$500m (approximately US$75m) over the last 10 years without a significant return on investment.
Unfortunately, his speechwriter led him into inconsistency when he repeated the cliché, ‘the Greatest Show on Earth’ on the occasion of the recent inaugural flight of Caribbean Airlines to Curacao.
The glaring omissions in the two statements cannot be filled by parliamentary rhetoric. The statements simply do not connect the dots between our creative industries and tourism—not surprisingly, because most politicians neither know what we have in the creative sectors nor come out and take it in on the ground.
Our true potential in the creative industries resides in our rich, extensive and varied musical and performing arts talent, in entertainment and cultural heritage tourism and related festivals and parades—not recognised in the current budget statement.
This broad and diverse tourism-ready product is not wedded to the two days of Carnival, much of which has been moved away from its heritage moorings. Cultural heritage must include promotion of the glorious Ramleela and lights of Divali and the tassa drumming and dance of the cultures of the Indian sub-continent flourishing here.
Long before the attempts at Live Music Districts, committed cultural leadership, way beyond the narrow boundaries of Film TT and Music TT, has developed and continues to develop talent. However, it has been doing so without the assistance of an integrated cultural and tourism development policy.
Will culture policy going forward be riddled with obsessive political control?