Policy clarity needed for the arts
We hope that the Minister of Finance has begun to appreciate why he needed to have delivered a more detailed budget outlining the various policy changes on which his allocations were based.
His decision to stick to minimum detail and allow his Cabinet colleagues to fill in the rest during the parliamentary debate has created information gaps that have not served him well.
Case in point is the 20 per cent reduction in the budget allocation for the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism.
This is a substantial cut which cries out for suitable justification, especially from a government that has identified the creative sector as a key pillar of economic growth.
In the face of a non-austerity budget with preferential treatment for several government areas, there is loud silence regarding the policy basis for deciding that this ministry can and must get by with just four-fifths of the money at its disposal just one year ago. In response, Arts Minister Lincoln Douglas has already signalled that the reduction will mean cuts "in all the various allocations for various functions and events", including Carnival.
This issue is a perfect example of how governments sow the seeds of public disaffection and then, when it flourishes, turn around and blame the public.
Unless Minister Howai, too, has fallen prey to the administration's culture of expediency, we would expect him to have made this decision on the basis of clear policy. All he has to do now is to share that policy with the public in the confidence that it is strong enough to get public and stakeholder buy-in.
In the absence of an explanation, we can predict from now that Carnival 2013 will be rent by an even higher level of protest and dissatisfaction.
This is not the only issue involving the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism that begs for an explanation. For example, what exactly is the mandate of this ministry and what is its interface with other ministries in this regard?
We ask this question in light of the significant role being played by the Ministry of Planning in the arts sector. For reasons that remain obscure, the Ministry of Planning has assumed a wide-ranging, operational involvement in the Arts, including the direct award of contracts to artistes.
Adding to the territorial confusion is the Ministry of Trade which is about to step up its own involvement by bringing several creative state industries under the ambit of a super agency, Creative TT.
There is dire need for clarity by the State on policy and management of the Arts portfolio. Before the situation gets any more confusing and counter-productive, we urge the Government to pause and take stock. Before the next step is taken, we must insist on policy clarity followed by full public consultation and discourse. Only then can we consider a strategic approach to the sector, both as industry and as culture.