Government’s proposed Cultural Industries Bill is causing fresh controversy.
Barbados TODAY understands that on the heels of Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley’s recent announcement that the legislation could be taken to Cabinet before year-end, a body calling itself the Concerned Creative Citizens Group has started a major lobby for further changes to it.
Representatives of the group, who have met with officials of the Ministry of Culture and UNESCO Consultant Andrew Senior, are pushing for a number of additional changes to the promised bill, and are insisting that it will give the minister “too much power”.
Speaking last month at the Caribbean Entertainment and Cultural Industries Summit at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Lashley said intended amendments to the cultural bill were with the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and that he hoped they could reach Cabinet before the end of this year.
“When the Cultural Industries Development Bill becomes law, it will certainly contribute significantly to the development of our highly talented human resource, which has the potential to give Barbados a competitive advantage in the global market place within the creative sector,” he said then.
He pointed out that a goal of the bill was the provision of fiscal incentives, tax and duty free concessions as well as the establishment of a special $50 million fund over a five-year period.
But in a series of documents now being circulated among cultural practitioners, the CCCG, whose individual members were not named, wants Government to pause and make further changes, including reducing the power the bill gives the Minister of Culture.
Section 7 (1) of the draft legislation stated in part that “where the Minister is satisfied that the cultural project would assist in the development of culture and cultural industries, the Minister may with the approval of the Cabinet, grant to the cultural practitioner an interim approval of the cultural project as the first stage in a two-stage authorisation procedure which would include an interim approval of the cultural project based on the information submitted in accordance with section 6 and the registration of the cultural practitioner with an approved cultural agency”.
In a 59 page document in which it examines the bill, makes amendments and justifies them, the CCCG said: “The Minister has too much power. The role of the state in developing and implementing cultural policy, and the impact of regulatory mechanisms of the state that influence the management of cultural goods and services and the protection of standards and rights, needs more careful and judicious assessment, especially as regards the institutional framework being set up to promote cultural industry, as proposed in the Bill,” the document stated.
“The framework for government engagement with institutions needs far more strategic oversight.
The group was also unhappy with the way funding would be provided to cultural practitioners, referring partly to the $50 million fund Lashley mentioned last month.
“Clear Policies need developing for foreign investment in the cultural industries, including magazine and newspaper publishing, fashion, music, film and other industries. In addition, funding opportunities and alternatives are not set out in the Bill,” the cultural practitioners stated.
“A $50 million fund is a very small amount of money considering the enormity of the task. Does the Bill provide for ongoing fund raising outside of the $50 million? Will $50 million always be guaranteed in the pot – or is there a timeline for the disbursement, depending on the source of the funding to the government?
“Should the funds be the rationale for the Bill, or should the Bill be an overarching instrument to oversee the policy framework for cultural industry practice,” they asked.?