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Mainstreaming the creative economy

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Teresa S. Abesamis

Grassroots & Governance

A study for the British Council reveals that the creative industries, including commercial and not-for-profit (i.e. culture and art for art’s sake) activities are one of the global economic success stories of the last 20 years. Great Britain has benefited from its creative industries, such as film and the phenomenal Beatles. From 2000 to 2010, according to an UNCTAD study, the creative industries grew annually more than twice that of the service industries overall, and more than quadruple that of manufacturing in many OECD and developing countries. The UNCTAD report cited reveals exports were recorded at $171 billion in 2001. Creative industries are estimated to contribute from 3% to 12% of global GDP, depending on how creative industries are defined.

Creative industries span several disciplines, including music, performing arts including dance and theatre, handicrafts, architecture, visual arts, graphic arts, cartoon animation, literature, fashion, furniture and interior design, film, digital inventions including computer games, television production, publishing and advertising.

While much effort has been made to track economic outputs of the creative industries, as the UNCTAD has done, it can be assumed that the data understate the real magnitude of this sector. There are many hurdles to overcome, including intellectual property rights protection, home-based internet enabled creative businesses including graphic arts and animation of which the Philippines is blessed with much talent. The risk of creative ideas being “stolen” or copied is rightfully deemed high; and individual unregistered providers of digital graphics and editing services, for example, are compensated directly via PayPal and similar digital payment systems.

It certainly doesn’t help that the creative industries have not been recognized officially as an economic sector so that its growth has not been accelerated in fairness to its potential, and the Filipino’s innate creative talent. Creative work does not have the professional status of medicine, or accounting, or even BPO, which is now recognized as a business “sector.”

Paolo Mercado of Nestlé Philippines, who happens to be chair and co-founder of The Creative Economy Council of the Philippines, a policy think tank, says that one of the constraints that has limited the Philippines’ ability to grow its creative industries is the tendency to focus on the domestic “market” and the need to open up to the global economy. So, far, for example, television broadcasting has only gone as far as servicing the “diaspora” of OFWs and other overseas Filipino professionals through ABS-CBN’s TFC (The Filipino Channel). Mercado cites the case of the advertising commercials production for Southeast Asia which has located its hub in Thailand. Just a few decades ago, Filipinos headed ad agencies in Bangkok and Jakarta. Other than New York-based Josie Natori, talented Filipino fashion designers have yet to find their rightful place in world class, global fashion. The potential could be pushed farther with adequate nurturing and support.

The Creative Economy Council (CECP) includes furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue, technopreneur Manny Ayala, Juan Miguel Del Rosario of the Animation Council, graphic designer Joey Alvear, Rhea Matute of the Design Center, Liza Dino Seguerra of the Film Development Council, landscape architect Paolo Alcazaren and Angel Guerrero, editor in chief of Adobo Magazine.

The CECP works closely with the Department of Trade, which it reveals is doing much and what it can; also with the Design Center and the Tourism Department which has committed to providing and funding a hub, or physical space, in Intramuros to nurture the creative industries.

Dr. Eduardo Morato, former dean of the Asian Institute of Management has formulated a road map for the creative industries through ABS-CBN Foundation’s Bayan Academy.

There is a growing clamor and several initiatives advocating firmer commitment by government to officially provide policy and programs to nurture and support the creative industries in order to tap its growth potential as an economic sector. Certainly, it should consider creating a Department for the Creative Economy, starting with creating a commission, which should be provided with adequate funding.

To jump-start the campaign, CECP advocates working with local government units which can provide physical hubs and policy and programs to nurture and protect the local creative economy. For many years, Legaspi Village in Makati was the hub for advertising creative production. Quezon City is the film production hub and television broadcasting center, with both ABS-CBN and GMA Network located there. Vice-Mayor Joy Belmonte has been very supportive.

Progress in Cebu City, which the British Council recognizes has the potential to become the “creative city for the Philippines” with its rich outputs in music, dance and digital entrepreneurship, seems to have stalled due to inadequate political support. There is much cultural activity; and bountiful tourism markets have enriched the potential for its arts and crafts.

Filipino talents have been recognized outside the country, but there is a risk that more and more creative talents have to go outside Philippine shores to make economic progress and thus fail to contribute to the Philippine economy.

Clearly, there is a need for government (executive and legislature) to wake up and get its act together to, first, recognize the creative industries as a significant contributor to the economy, and to organize long term institutional and policy infrastructure in order to fully tap the potential of this rapidly growing sector. Given adequate institutional, policy and funding support, it could surpass laggard agriculture and manufacturing as contributors to the national economy.

 

Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and an independent development management consultant.

tsabesamis0114@yahoo.com