Trinidad and Tobago might be the land of steelpan and soca, but the latest figures from Planning and Economy Minister Dr Bhoe Tewarie show that the country's creative industries have more than an US$100 million trade deficit.
"Current industry trends show Trinidad and Tobago's exports of creative industry goods increased from about US$15.6 million in 2004 to only US$17 million in 2008. That's a nine per cent growth. Imports for the same period increased from US$76 million to US$118.8 million—a 56 per cent increase," he said.
The majority of that trade is regional, said Tewarie, with T&T's top partners being Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana.
While this may point at increasing regional integration, he said, it highlights that we have yet to substantially penetrate the United States or European markets.
Tewarie delivered the feature address at the launch of an Artiste Management/Music Business Conference at Queen's Hall, Port of Spain yesterday, a collaboration between the Ministry and local entertainment company, ASK-PROMOTIONS.
Some of the country's more dominant creative exports, he said, are publishing, design and arts and crafts.
Music is underdeveloped, despite the more than 900 recording artistes in the country.
"2008 music exports were US$68,000 compared to nearly US$6 million in imports. Exports have been increasing but not nearly where it needs to be. Music definitely needs a boost. It needs organisation and strong partnerships. We need to move from recognition of talent to the creation and organisation of an industry," Tewarie said.
He said a high-level expert panel to Guide the Implementation of Arts, Cultural and Entrepreneurial Projects appointed by the ministry had suggested new agencies in dance, festival arts, theatre and visual arts and writing and publishing be created, and supported, by a venture capital/grand fund framework with supporting legislation to sustain growth.
"These matters are under active consideration because we cannot continue as we have and expect results," said the minister.
"If developed and marketed, these creative goods and services will have the opportunity to add to the symphony of world music. Our music has range and variety to stand on its own, but it has the ability to fuse with other genres. This can have multiplying effects on our trade and tourism industries and our place in the world," he said.