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CULTURAL SECTOR SUBMITS NATIONAL BUDGET DOCUMENT

Over 20 artist representatives signed and delivered  the final figures of a Cultural Sector Masterplan for the National Budget to the Honourable Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar on Friday last. The submission of the document followed a presentation of the sector plan to the Prime Minister and 3 other Ministers including Minister of Finance Winston Dookeran on Tuesday. That meeting itself followed 2 months of meetings that artists have conducted with various Ministers in the People’s Partnership government. Artists met with Ministers Cadiz and Peters amongst others  in order to get a reform of a sector that worldwide is one of the biggest earners of revenue in the world- but in Trinidad has not been managed properly by successive administrations.

Rubadiri Victor, interim president of the Artist Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago(ACTT), the organisation that has been organizing the artists, said this, “We were told by the Honourable Prime Minister that she liked what they saw in the presentation, but that the country’s financial situation would not allow the government to engage all the programmes. We were asked to prioritise and come back with competitive figures. We have done so.”

The final sector meetings were facilitated by the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) and their CEO Nirad Tewarie. TTCSI is the umbrella body for service organisations locally. Tewarie was part of the spirited discussions that went on for more than 6 hours on Friday with groups as they fleshed out the sector demands.

Present at the final meetings hammering out the final details were leaders like: Carla Foderingham of the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company; Vijay Ramlal of the Chutney Foundation; Brother Resistance of TUCO, COTT and the Rapso Movement; and Mahindra Maharaj of the National Carnival Development Foundation. Other sector leaders present were: Trevor Jadunath of the National Drama Association; Ravi Ji of the Association of Traditional Religions; Robert Young of the Fashion Association of Trinidad and Tobago; and many more. Also joining them were artists like Wendel Manwarren of 3Canal, TV producer Danielle Dieferenthaller, and Christopher Laird of Gayelle.

The final version of the document has been the result of extensive consultations between sector heads and concerned artists over the course of the last 3 months. The programmes in the document have been brainstormed and analysed over the last decade and are themselves distillations of 48 years of outstanding artist demands. Says ACTT interim president Victor of the sector plan, “This is what diversification looks like at ground zero. The 2010 budget is about the creation of an enabling environment for the cultural sector which has existed too long without common-sense industrial mechanisms. The current contribution of ‘arts and culture’ to the economy is about $1.6 billion. The deployment of the plans detailed in this document will create a real and vibrant cultural sector that can multiply its contribution to the national economy significantly in 3 years. We are talking increased employment, crime reduction, a more beautiful society, more foreign exchange, and evidence of our genius everywhere in our mainstream life.”