Response to outline of CreativeTT document from MTII, March 2013

“The viability of the Creative Industry depends greatly on the ability to create new content, exert property rights over it and ultimately enforce those property rights.”
The Creative Industries Company (CreativeTT) – Outline, Ministry of Trade and Investment. March 2013.

The viability of the creative industries depends on the notion that individuals are free to create without fear, without rancour and recrimination, without official disinterest in local output in favour of business models that have foreign bias. Part and parcel of the hesitancy of stakeholders to latch onto the policy thrust of the Ministry of Trade and Investment (MTII) to implement the TT Creative Industries Company (CreativeTT) is the lack of trust given the prior hasty actions in agglomerating a board consisting of persons unsavoury to stakeholders, the complete misinterpretation of the two sector companies’ results, the shelving of strategic plans in train, and the actions and words of the Minister denigrating the efforts and output of creative players by challenging local Chamber of Commerce members on November 20, 2012 to admit, “genuinely, hand on heart” that we have not produced a financially successful indigenous cinema industry or exportable entertainment industry.1 That can’t represent effective consultation.

To date, we as stakeholders have gotten conflicting signals from the government that do not create an enabling environment. We have also seen the woefully inadequate investment in the sector over the last 6 years so that any notion that things will be enhanced with this cost-saving vehicle of human resource efficiency is mitigated by facts on the ground, which say otherwise. The revenue towards GDP from the diversified economies must approach $10-15B in the next decade, and the piecemeal approach in investment in the sector does not signal a confidence on the part of the government. With the pull out of CariSal as a key energy sector investor, and the continued deficit in revenues to the treasury, the attempt to fast track any alternative revenue generator is obvious and expected. But not like this.

The problem was that Trade ministry officials made clear their dilemma of having $100M plus to spend. The Cabinet agreed line item insists that the TTCIC is the spending agency for the ministry specific to the creative industries. No TTCIC, no MTII money for film, music or fashion! I have already written on the non-viability of the state enterprise model to create growth in any industry outside of energy going back to the 1990s.2 TIDCO was a dismal failure in diversifying the non-oil sector, and any investments in the creative industries to spur growth had failed: Miss Universe 1999 and World Beat Festival 1999.

building-compAdded to this, we see in 2012 the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development investing unknown amounts of Public money in a private sector music effort under the brand of “Going For Gold” with the hope of a potential profit initiating an investment fund for the music industry. A too-high price point, and a late delivery of the product has impacted sales negatively. This business model is flawed. One would have thought that that Ministry knew better. It published a document, Building Competitive Advantage, which guides the diversification movement of the government and the thrust of the MTII to mobilize CreativeTT. From it, we read regarding the Culture and Creative Industries:

“To strengthen this business cluster, several initiatives have already been undertaken by Government in collaboration with relevant stakeholders. These include [inter alia]:

  • The adoption the three key recommendations High Level Expert Panel for the Implementation of Arts, Cultural and Entrepreneurial Projects and the Patriotism Projects:
    1. To establish an Arts Council,
    2. To establish a Venture Capital Fund and a Grant Fund mechanism and
    3. To develop a Cultural Policy Framework, which will also be developed with supporting Legislation and Regulatory Framework.

In the intervening years, we have seen and heard conflicting stories about who said what and to whom at this High Level Panel, but we heard the chair, Dr Keith Nurse distance himself from the various iterations of the CreativeTT document of MTII at the recent consultations. Clearly there was a shift in thinking from then to now on somebody else’s part. The 20 functions of CreativeTT and the 13 functions of the subsidiaries speak nothing of the actions that enhance the enabling environment of government “…providing facilitatory mechanisms, including the removal of constraints to investment in commercial activity and the establishment of the appropriate institutional, regulatory and incentive framework.3 Instead it serves, inter alia, as,

  • talent scouts [11. To identify creative capital (talent)],
  • artist managers [18. Advocate for local content], and
  • private brand managers [20. Take all necessary steps to protect intellectual property content generated from the projects implemented by CreativeTT.]

The MTII has to come clean on the allegations of this hasty state enterprise intervention to renew a positive relationship with stakeholders. I am aware that modern creative industries in developing countries are more and more dependent on offshore investment, so the planned Film City mentioned by the Minister in his budget presentation last year would not fulfil any goal of incubating local talent, but work towards a competitive parallel industry that has the capital injections that have been lacking traditionally from the local financial sector. That financial sector, we have seen is also unable to fund a CariSal investment as stated by that company’s vice president of strategy and business development, Kristine Thompson, so that a key component of growing the creative industries in T&T as stated by the Planning Ministry, creating a supporting financial environment, is not being spoken about, and leaves me with the belief that this diversification thrust is more words than action.

The necessary actions going forward, in addition to those outlined prior should be:

  1. Enactment of a National Cultural Policy, first! [via Min. of The Art & Multiculturalism]
  2. Elucidation of the structural problems of the industry in the context of the wider economic space locally. Recognition that the industry segments share the common feature of the creative act as the core of their value-added, but they possess very different structures in some cases.
  3. Effective negotiation of appropriate incentives to monetise the cross-fertilisation of the industry via the myriad transaction networks and income streams. Assist commercial banks in developing their core competitiveness in providing financial services to SMEs in cultural industries.4
  4. Enhancement of legislation for intellectual property and rights in a digital age!!!

CreativeTT must represent more than simply an agency to cut operational costs to an underfunded state enterprise in competition with local private stakeholders. I am aware that MTII is not obliged to accept anything written by stakeholders. The language on the TTCSI website is clear: “…the MTII has undertaken to consider the comments and review the structure for a final time if necessary.” (My emphasis.) The TTCSI CEO has placed on the record the “either-or” option: “It’s either we get this thing done, or we go back to business as usual and have nothing.” A lot of work has to be done by stakeholders too, probably in consultation with TTCSI, to form umbrella organisations among the micro-entrepreneurs that make up the creative industries sectors here in T&T. Once we are on that page, we can have proper effective consultations rather than these lectures. I suggest it is necessary for MTII to revisit this proposal.

REFERENCES

  1. Sen. Vasant Bharath on the proposed TTCIC.
    1. Nov 15, 2012: Creative Industries Company has a heritage that should be avoided.
    2. Nov 19, 2012: Crosstalk and Jargon, or How To Confuse the Words Creative and Industry!
    3. Nov 23, 2012: People Who Really Know: A Focused Response to Vasant Bharath’s take on the Creative Industries.
  2. Ministry of Finance. Investments Division. (2011). STATE ENTERPRISES PERFORMANCE MONITORING MANUAL. [Port of Spain]: Ministry of Finance.
  3. Wallis, Roger, et al. “Best Practice Cases in the Music Industry and their Relevance for Government Policies in Developing Countries.” Geneva, UNCTAD (2001). 47-48

© 2014, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.

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2 thoughts on “Response to outline of CreativeTT document from MTII, March 2013”

  1. Good one, Nigel…I think you need to be clearer and firmer as to the fact that at a national level, high levels of corruption are in fundamental conflict with economic development, so much so that there is a frightening co-relation between perceived corruption levels and poverty levels in our region – viz. Haiti and Guyana…Corruption can only flourish where the details of transactions in Public Money are concealed…It is in that context that we need to locate the conflicting accounts of on the one hand – playing for a challenging, new, non-energy development model via culture (with which you are engaging here) with, on the other hand, a distinct reluctance to disclose details on the widely-publicised MM contract….that contradiction needs to be highlighted so as to point out how serious is the dilemma…the imperative to change how our fundamental arrangements are structured is in severe conflict with our thirst for secrecy and the quiet deal…you see?

    As Lloyd Best always said, the basic challenge is how do we escape the culture, how do we escape ourselves?

  2. There is a confusion in the comments of the Minister of Planning, Bhoe Tewarie made to journalist Dixie-Ann Dixon of the Trinidad and Tobago Guardian. In an article published on Monday, January 28, 2013 in that newspaper, the minister is quoted as saying, “The expert panel report had a number of recommendations and was not accepted when it was brought to Cabinet. Two of the reasons were the comprehensive nature of the programme and the cost.” He also said to the journalist that, “…there were two proposals, one was a short-term plan for the celebration of T&T 50th anniversary, which was approved and implemented and the other was the long term plan for the entire creative sector, which was not approved for the above reasons.” One of the points in the report, which he says was not accepted is “To create a venture capital company that would allow the private sector to partner with some for the State agencies as an investor for creative sector.” And therein lies the conflict with the statement from the published document, “Building Competitive Advantage,” which the ministry says is adopted.

    The confusion continues.

    http://guardian.co.tt/entertainment/2013-01-28/tewarie-promises-action-creative-industry

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