Is the creative economy paying off?

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In November last year, the government of Saint Lucia officially introduced an innovative subject which has been and continues to be promoted as a solution to the high unemployment rate observed among the country’s young population.

The government has since drawn up a master plan by which this innovative subject, called the youth economy, is to be developed, which, if pursued greedily by the country’s many employed and unemployed young people, could provide them with employment at long term both as entrepreneurs or as skilled craftsmen.

We will discuss this topic in a later editorial. What this topic has done is point us to another innovative topic introduced by the government of Saint Lucia over a decade ago. This pioneering subject, called the creative economy, was supposed to boost the country’s creativity and create income that did not exist before.

This focus on the creative economy emerged during the 2008 recession, a crisis that caused a contraction in international trade. What was recognized at that time was that global exports of creative goods and services continued to grow, indicating an annual growth rate of 14% over six consecutive years (2002-2008).

For the world, this confirmed that the creative industries hold great potential for developing countries seeking to diversify their economies and enter one of the most dynamic sectors of the global economy.

The government of Saint Lucia, always looking for ways to create jobs for a growing population, is committed to creating such an economy, echoing the international economic and development agenda by saying that if properly nurtured, creativity fuels culture, infuses human-centred development and is the key ingredient for job creation, innovation and trade, while contributing to social inclusion, cultural diversity and environmental sustainability.

Entering another crisis a decade later (coronavirus) forcing us to ask ourselves: how has the creative economy helped Saint Lucia in the past two years of COVID-19?

Stories of our artists, singers, actors and people involved in the development of creative goods and services in the country, asking for financial assistance during the last two years of COVID-19 have flooded us.

We asked: where is this great potential for developing countries that the creative economy was supposed to exhibit during and outside of times of crisis?

Last time we checked, Saint Lucia was and still is a developing country, very far into the development phase, and ripe for all that the creative economy would bring. So why do our singers, actors, performers, writers, artists and others involved in the development of creative goods and services seem to be struggling today?

Could it be that we have never succeeded in creating the right mix of policy and strategic choices, which are essential to exploit the socio-economic potential of the creative economy, for our own development gains?

The 2010 United Nations Creative Economy Report notes that policy strategies to foster the development of the creative economy must recognize its multidisciplinary nature – its economic, social, cultural, technological and environmental linkages.

According to the report, “key elements of any package aimed at shaping a long-term strategy for the creative economy should involve concerted cross-ministerial action to ensure that national institutions, a regulatory framework and funding mechanisms are in place to support strengthening the creative and related industries.

The report further states that “policies for the creative economy must respond not only to economic needs, but also to the particular demands of local communities related to education, cultural identity, social inequalities and environmental concerns” .

Having touched the tip of the proverbial creative economy iceberg, we are left to ask ourselves: what are we doing now to ensure that our creative economy does what it was created to do?

We leave this question to those more versed in the creative sector to answer, however, they should bear in mind that the aim of the creative economy is to reinvigorate growth by emphasizing culture and creative activities.

We believe the time has come to identify the key creative industries that have yet to be tapped to their full potential. With that done, let us get to work to reap the development benefits that these industries can bring us.

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