The arts are not always in a prominent place on the political agenda in Africa, Latin-America and Asia. Nevertheless, an increasing number of governments recognise the importance of culture in itself and in connection to social and economic development. Part sixteen in a series on cultural policy in non-Western countries.
Even though it is one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean, Jamaica is not without ambition. Its national cultural policy prescribes that the country become a "cultural super power".
Jamaica has a rich arts history: reggae music is inseparably related to the island and influenced fashion throughout the world. According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the country's music industry is worth some 14.5 billion dollars. Jamaica only sees a fraction of that sum: one-half million dollars. Foreign companies primarily profit from the local talent. One of the reasons for this is the lack of a separate Ministry of Culture.
The government organizations concerned with culture fall under various ministries. The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Institute of Jamaica, for example, are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, the Youth and Culture. The film and entertainment commissions of the investment bureau JAMPRO are part of the Ministry of Development, and copyright is a matter for the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology. Fragmentation and a lack of cohesion and coordination therefore characterize the government's support of the cultural sector.
Key phrases in the country's first national cultural policy, discussed in parliament in March 2006, are therefore cohesion and sustainable cultural development. The policy has a wide scope: it took nearly ten years to formulate and streamline it based on Unesco's international guidelines. The first step on the road to becoming the cultural super power that Jamaica wants to be is the establishment of a separate Ministry of Culture. The government also wants to promote the country's cultural diversity and literature, and to stimulate cultural industries, certainly its music.