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Off on the wrong foot

Before the country gets embroiled in yet another protest, we urge the Government to make a full and detailed statement about the proposed Trinidad and Tobago Creative Industries Company (TTCIC).

This new state enterprise has not even got off the ground as yet but it is already the subject of great controversy with a lobby developing against it. Key critics include members of the creative community who claim to have been ambushed by piece-meal disclosures from the Ministry of Trade about plans to bring all State enterprises operating in the creative sector under the umbrella of this new mega state enterprise.

All of this could have been avoided if the Government had taken the country into its confidence and delivered a full and unambiguous statement about this company, outlining the rationale, mandate, cost and other information of relevance to the national interest.

It is counter-productive for the Government to be moving ahead with the establishment of an enterprise of such importance to the creative sector without recognising the critical value of public communication and participation. Not only to those within the industry, but to the national community as a whole which will have to foot the bill.

Having said this, we wonder about a planning approach that would proceed to implement such a major decision while a National Policy on Culture is still being debated. One would have assumed that strategies, such as the establishment of the TTCIC, would have emerged out of the Culture Policy. Government management seems to be running on parallel tracks, with the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturism heading in one direction while the Ministry of Trade and Industry heads in another, oblivious to the potential for conflict, waste and lack of focus.

At a stakeholder consultation on the Draft National Policy on Culture last month, Culture Ministry personnel themselves did not seem to know much about the TTCIC that was being set up under the Ministry of Trade.

In principle, one would support the TTCIC as a strategic intervention in the transformation of the creative sector. We have long recognised the need for developing our creative industries as a key pillar of a diversified economy.

Attaining this goal, however, requires buy-in from the various interests that will be affected as well as the national community which will have to fund this latest excursion by the State into business.

We therefore urge the Government to take the time to get their ducks in a row on this issue. Clarity of statement and process are fundamental to success. In their absence, the ground becomes fertile for misinformation and confusion that could derail the entire exercise.

The time is now for the Minister of Trade to take the public into his confidence by making a detailed statement on the proposed TTCIC and opening up the plan to public scrutiny and input.

In case the Government has forgotten, this is the minimum requirement in any project involving public funds.

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