Where’s Culture in Trinidad’s Budget?

The conversation on my Facebook feed after the budget was read out, is that this Government, like it’s predecessors (regardless of party) doesn’t understand or value the creative sector.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert spoke of spending $25 million to re-install a state of the art audio system in the National Academy of the Performing Arts (NAPA). He also spoke of building 8 community centres this year, and their plans to build, or renovate, others in 2017. These community centres will hold music and arts classes because Government sees their value. The Government says it will engage stakeholders to develop ways to better integrate culture in our tourism thrust,  and Sandals is expected to spend a $100 million on services, quite  a bit of that would be for culture and entertainment.

But Trinidad and Tobago is supposed to be thinking serious about diversifying it’s economy,  and moving away from it’s dependence on oil and gas. The rumblings on my Facebook feed suggests that people aren’t seeing where in the budget that Government has put anything in place to support the development, or creation of, a creative sector, that many believe has the power to support our economy.

But my answer to those people is, what did you expect? You have a Government that isn’t accustomed to thinking about culture as something other than entertainment, or something to pacify the masses. They don’t “know” that it has real monetary value. So what is required now is civil action, to craft and then encourage the type of policy this country needs when it comes to culture.

The first step is creating a National Cultural Policy, and enforcing it. The NCP will guide how we treat with cultural things, ensure that it is included in the national education sylabuslabus, it will provide protection for cultural spaces etc. Then you create a Cultural Development Policy which will deal with the development of the sector including supporting its industrial development. But what is required now is the action of people in the creative sector to tell Government what it wants and direct how they are to get it.