The 2010 Budget should be devoted to strengthening Trinidad and Tobago’s arts and culture so we move beyond the lip service and put the proper structure, facilities and mechanisms in place to take advantage of the rich multiculturalism and arts for the benefit of both our human and political development, nationally, regionally and internationally.
It is now well-recognised that our arts and culture are among our most untapped renewable resource. It has untapped value not only to us here in the region but internationally. It is time that the country where was invented the only musical instrument in recent times; which has an as yet incomparable record of social cohesion despite its multicultural diversity, takes its place as a leader in the world cultural stage.
We also need to change our perception of the sector – as not just its products as literature, performance, language design, film, song, music, dance, which are all underutilised – but also how we utilise the spirit of resilience and creative impulses that drives our capacity to rise above our circumstances, as well as how we leverage our diasporic connections which include our ancestral countries of origin, but also elements of the T&T and Caribbean diasporas that we are developing across the globe. That way we will make our experiences of slavery and indentureship truly emancipating.
That can only come from meaningful diversification and more equitable treatment of groups, and an enabling environment and infrastructure for investment in the arts and culture, similar to that which has been given to petroleum over the decades, to make it possible that the enormous cadre of talent available locally can face the competitive global marketplace. The 2010 Budget must give substance to the continuing rhetoric that ‘culture is the new oil’ and give to the sector the kind of support petroleum has received through tax incentives, development of infrastructure, and facilitation. It should facilitate communities to appreciate and protect their cultural practices and assets that can form a vibrant base for the new tourism that caters to special interests as the old tourism flounders in the face of the economic crisis. It should project infrastructural development as to provide for such a community focus, and at the same time provide mechanisms to the international communities – international agencies as those of the United Nations and UNESCO, the European Union, and the Commonwealth and utilise our foreign missions to forge partnerships that includes our various diasporas of origin which effectively encompasses most of the world – also an as yet unquantified asset.
If we are serious about weaning ourselves away from dependency on petroleum, and dependency as a whole we must do away with the ad hoc treatment of arts and culture where groups and individuals, and individual cultural sectors are subject to whatever partisan interests the powers of the day may hold, and establish a cultural policy along with programmes and actions that will standardize State treatment of the arts and culture sector that will hold for all.
“We tend to underestimate the potential of the arts and culture, and often speak of it either in terms of economic or human development – but we are in a position to take full advantage of both elements – to use our cultural resilience and get rid of the ‘gimme gimme’ syndrome to forge the kind of social transformation that will secure for our sustainable development for generations to come.