Creative economy

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YEN MAKABENTA

YEN MAKABENTA

2nd of three parts

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First read
In his famous and much-anthologized Lenten lecture on the Filipino national tradition, the Filipino scholar and historian, Horacio de la Costa (S.J) cited five principles of our national tradition:

• Pagsasarili (self-reliance),
• pakikisama (partnership),
• pagkakaisa ( unity),
• pagkabayani (patriotism), and
• pakikipagkapwa-tao (human solidarity).

It is significant that he listed “self-reliance” as the first principle of nationhood, because this is often what we Filipinos find missing when we are most critical of ourselves and our country.

Principle of self- reliance
Explaining the principle, De la Costa wrote: “Pagsasarili is the principle of self- reliance. It is the burning ambition of every Filipino to be himself; to be is own man; to be a person in his own right; to make up his own mind; to do his thing. He may not say so in so many words, But it is there: pagsasarili, to own oneself.

“When Magellan and his men called the people of Mactan to stop owning themselves, what answer did Lapu-lapu send back to them?” This: that if the Spaniards had lances made of metal, the men of Mactan had lances made of wood, with tips hardened in the fire. Just that.

“Of us Filipinos, it can be said that our history is a history of lost battles. But the battle of Mactan Beach was one battle we won, and we won it by relying on weaponry that, while vastly inferior, was nevertheless our own.

“If we Filipinos put so high a value on pagsasarili, it is perhaps because we have been denied it for so so long. One of the great evils of colonialism is to put a premium on dependence; to make survival itself depend on being dependent.”

A change of cultural mindset
It is fitting to recall De la Costa’s words in discussing the creative economy, because this new paradigm calls for a change of cultural mindset, which , unless changed, would keep developing and once-colonized countries permanently imprisoned in dependence on colonial powers and their policies.

Culture change is not just a change of words, but a change in approach and objectives.

President Duterte signalled a change when he spoke of a shift to “an independent foreign policy” away from America. But it is paradoxical that in espousing the end of Filipino dependence on American protection and benevolence, we hear repeatedly from the present administration that ‘China will give us this’ or that ‘Russia will give us that.’ This reinforces our discomfort that national attitudes remain rooted in 20th century thinking and a begging bowl diplomacy.

The driving force is still looking for hand-outs, “gifts,” and arms deals. It misses the strategic opportunities and ignores the global trends today.

In Asean, our neighbors are rapidly establishing partnerships across a wide spectrum of activities, which are already bearing fruit and which will provide these countries with bountiful harvests in future years.

A reader warns that the best partnerships may have already been taken, and “the Philippines could become the spinster of Asean, left on the international shelf, and just providing comfort to china and russia when needed.”

Even Cambodia recently embarked on a formal “Country Partnership Strategy” as the way to catch up rapidly to other Asean members.

It may be that insularity – the perennial feeling of being an island nation — is still a major cultural constraint for the Philippines, and countries will be hesitant to partner with us because of a cultural mismatch, beyond selling us consumer goods.

The creative economy is a step outside this insularitry; that is why we should embrace its liberating promise.

Policies for creative economy
What should a developing country do to boost and develop its creative economy? What are the policy initiatives that it must take to create change?

The Creative Economy reports cite the following policy directions as paramount:

• The provision of infrastructure

It is a fundamental function of government to create and maintain the conditions under which the economic, social and cultural life of the citizens can prosper. This responsibility takes shape through the ways in which the public sector provides the tangible and intangibnle infrastructure.

• Provision of finance and investment

Traditionally, investment in the cultural sector has directed investments and programming towards projects, institutions and large enterprises that are heavily dependent on public investments and financing. The sustainability of the creative industries, depends, however, on a different and more comprehensive model of investment.

• Creation of institutional mechanisms

The actual role played by government in dispensing funds for the cultural sector and hence for the creative economy, may involve: (1) direct cultural provision via the state apparatrus (as in Russia and China), or (2) via an enabling role administered through a ministry of culture or the equivalent.

The expansion of cultural policy beyond the concerns simply of core artistic and cultural activities entails an expansion of the ways in which cultural funding is provided.

• Development of export markets

Strategies for developing domestic creative industries and their export markets have to be designed. East Asian countries stand ou t as successes in this regard.

Developing the Philippines as a creative hub is clearly a major objective of any creative economy plan that will be attempted by the Philippines.

• Enhancing creatrive capacities

The government should target policies and measures to encourage production in the creative economy. The role of the individual arrtists is to be seen as primary sources creative ideas and interpreters of trasditional knowledge. They are an indispensable element in the very first stage in the value chain for most, if not all, creative products.

What is possible, what can be
I like the simplicity and clarity with which the British describe their objectives in developing their creative economy.

The UK Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) describes its vision as follows:

At the heart of everything we do is the government’s long-term economic plan to build a stronger, more competitive economy and secure a better future for Britain. DCMS accounts for just 0.18 percent of total central government spending yet our sectors contribute 16 percent of total gross value added to the UK economy. Central to this will be our work throughout the country to support our creative industries, digital economy, intellectual property rights, soft power, sport and tourism.

Culture, media and sport enrich our lives and help make Britain unique. Wherever you live in the country and whatever your background, we want you to be able to enjoy and participate in our sectors. We are:

Keeping our major national museums and galleries free;

Getting the nation active and supporting our elite athletes on the world stage;

Backing the creative industries, which are growing at 3 times the rate of our economy as a whole;

Spreading the benefits of our thriving tourism and heritage industries right across the country;

Leading the digital revolution to make the UK the most competitive and innovative market in the world and driving an ambitious digital communications agenda, connecting homes and businesses to broadband and mobile;

Backing our brilliant and diverse media landscape, defending a free press, and helping our citizens keep themselves safe from cyber crime.

In art, music, fashion, theatre, video games, design, TV and performing arts – we are leading the world, enhancing our national prestige and boosting our economy.

This merits pondering as we design our own instititutional mechanism for a creative Philippines, which will be the subject of my final column on the creative economy.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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