Pamela Coke Hamilton, executive director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, is calling for greater attention be given to developing the services sector in Barbados and the rest the region.
Singling out the creative industry, Coke Hamilton said it had emerged as a key growth area in the Caribbean through its GDP contribution, employment opportunities, export potential, tourism and intellectual property branding.
She said according to UNESCO statistics the creative industry was one of the fastest growing areas globally in terms of economic value, totaling a record US$624 billion in 2011.
“During the same period in CARIFORUM the total creative sector exports peaked at just over US$400 million,” said Coke Hamilton.
She made the comments at the beginning of a Caribbean private sector consultation at the Radisson Aquatica Resort today, in which the development agency was presented with a 3.2 million Euro cheque from the European Union.
The money, which comes from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), was presented for the services sector development component of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
Coke Hamilton said the creative industry continued to be treated “almost as an after thought by many of our policy makers and political heads” simply because it was thought about as something that came naturally.
“Because of that we’ve not really had an overarching policy dynamic that governs how we engage the creative industries. So one of the things we will be looking at doing is doing the export value of our music, the whole issue of intellectual property and the value that comes through that,” she said.
Coke Hamilton said trade in services outside of tourism had not traditionally received strategic attention in the Caribbean. She added that emphasis on agriculture and manufacturing meant that no consistent policy incentive programme or institutional structure was put in place for the development of services and its expansion into the export market.
“The fact however, is that service contribute significantly to output, employment and exports, thereby playing a critical role in economic development. Recent data show that the services sector account for almost 71 per cent of global gross domestic product in 2010. Trade in services has increased from US$1.5 billion in 2000 to US$3.9 billion in 2008 and US$4.3 billion in 2012, representing a weighted average annual increase of 15.7 per cent,” she added.
And while admitting that the task of growing the services sector was not an easy one, Coke Hamilton acknowledged that regional governments and other stakeholders recognized the potential of the sector and were implementing frameworks in order to capitalize on the opportunities.
“In Barbados the government has published a cultural industries bill that aims to offer a range of tax and fiscal incentives targeted at facilitating growth in the sector,” she added.