Cultures of Expedience: Corruption, Crime and Craven in Jamaican Cultural and Creative Industries

Excerpt of a presentation to the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Sept 26, 2019

It was a pleasure to speak at the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce 18TH Annual Customs Seminar.   I was asked to speak on corruption in Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) – an unusual topic I thought. 
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I was a little reluctant and reticent because in Jamaica we have a growing and dynamic creative ecosystem with emerging sectors and sub sectors.  I did not want to leave the impression that our cultural and creative sectors, now also known as the Orange Economy sectors are ONLY fraught with challenges.
Few people understand the size and scale of CCIs or know that the global market for creative goods doubled between 2002 and 2015.  In the last decade it has enjoyed global export growth rates of over 7%. Cultural and creative production provides the content for the online economy. This digital locomotive contributes over US$200b to global digital sales annually.   The Orange Economy constitutes as much as 18% of the services sector in 38 countries. While it is as sector known to be risky, it an excellent area for investment for those who which to diversify portfolios and business offerings. 
In Jamaica there are now three CCI companies listed on the Junior Stock Exchange.  So creative and cultural enterprises are ‘legitimate’ businesses. Often we are not seen that way, admittedly sometimes because of our own actions.  However, this must not overshadow the increasing levels of professionalism emerging in the sector, many young and senior creatives making an honest living,  or the the growing opportunities for creative sector growth as more cultural and creative businesses continue to establish themselves and the nature of business changes. Still, many of our creative workers remain ‘uncounted’ and ‘informal’, often by will.  Others continue to scratch their way towards formalisation.  This is where the issues of crime, corruption and craven take root.


In keeping with your theme, ‘Securing Commerce, Facing Challenges’; we will look as some of the challenges and then some suggestions, as I invite you to join in the advocacy for the swift formalisation of the CCI’s.   I chose to speak about the inconsistencies in Jamaican policy and legislation that can cause some of these practices to slip by unnoticed.  In the interest of time I used just two of at least 35 CCI sectors (and growing) as examples: 
The first is the digital economy:  The internet is the site of much fake news and many fake goods and services.  Having been scammed myself en route to South Africa trying to book access to a lounge in Frankfurt on the internet, I did the analysis and determined that the ‘fine art’ of scamming can technically be considered a cultural and creative sector.   Scamming  has each of the seven characteristics that make an industry cultural and creative.  We are NOT claiming it amongst the over 35 CCI sectors and myriad sub sectors.  However the point to be made is the ease with which digital fraud, corruption, scamming, phishing can take place using cultural and creative skills. 

In Jamaica it is a double edged sword. The harder it is to operate in legitimate, formal sectors; the more attractive it become to join easier, illicit sectors; particularly if you have the skills and equipment to do it.  If you are trained in digital economy skills and cannot use them to make a living, surely you will find another way to keep alive. It is critical that we move to create viable opportunities for our young people or there will be in inexhaustible supply of scamming services available on the market.  We could spend hours going over case studies on digital corruption and crimes involving CCI’s.

The second is the world of fine art. This year’s  Global Art Market Report tells us that last year the global art market grew by 6% to an estimated 67.6 billion USD. This counted sales through auctions, art fairs and online sales  Many businesses and individuals purchase fine art as investments. Investors can have diverse art catalogues by investing across the various categories of art and have the advantage of high returns on investment as well as the pleasure of the work itself.  8The art market globally employs 3 million persons last year, with almost 311-thousand businesses. Sector growth last year resulted in an increased spend in external support services of 3% year on year supporting over 375-thousand additional jobs. The Global Art Market tells us that the fine art sector is said to be impenetrable by risk analysis; building intrigue in the investment process.  It is an unpredictable market because it is not only regulated by supply and demand, but also by the highly nebulous factor of taste.

 The Jamaica art scene is quite viable, but there are many local challenges, outlined here quite simplistically,  without addressing the deep complexities that cause these challenges, in the interest of time. 

9Across international borders and right here in Jamaica that are challenges, the smuggling of art continues unabated.  art with values that can purchase real estate is removed from frames slips across the borders disguised as prints, as fabric, wrapped in dirty clothing. Art is even removed from public places.  Art and antiques theft are  also big business.


Several contradictions exist within cultural and creative industries (CCI) policies and legislation that need to be rationalised. Night noises is but one of several pieces of legislation related to the CCI that requires rationalisation if the sector is to flourish. The greasing of palms of the policeman to keep the sound on is but one example of CCI corruption.  That debate rages on.  There are other areas too.
In 2015 I proposed that all CCI legislation and policies be audited and rationalised.  As we approach 2020 I will be less ambitious and suggest just two pieces of legislation that require re-examination.  These are the customs and procurement amendments as they relate to CCI.
  1. Incentives: Every government of the world that has deliberately designed their cultural economy has made policy choices. This includes incentives.   I got hold of Jamaica’s Customs Tariff Revision (Amendment) (Resolution) (2013) – that is the amendment to the Customs Act. 10Like the Jamaican Police who issue traffic tickets but cannot arrest persons with multiple hundreds of tickets;  the customs  professionals have to adhere to the Act and its revisions.  They take the abuse even when those rules, which they did not set, are absurd.  The Customs legislative amendments speak to tools of trade incentives for two sectors out of a possible 35.  Some might say we should look at the 7 priority sectors – (depending on which document you read) but I am still unconvinced about how we arrived at those seven without the necessary data.  So how were the choices made for those 2 for Tariffs? What about the others?   So how about a planned and strategic rationalisation of existing incentives across CCIs? Perhaps post IMF we can choose to rationalise our CCI incentives by providing holistic, uniform policy including incentives while maintaining fiscal discipline?
  2. Procurement: As we know, many cultural and creative products and services are intangible.  This has caused much consternation globally regarding their valuation.  As11 a result, fleecing, over charging, padding of bills and other corrupt practices do exist across CCI’s not just here, but worldwide.  This often poses a challenge for procurement processes.                                                                                In Jamaica, the revision of the Public Procurement Act in 2015 presents significant ambivalence.  Under that act, several cultural and creative sectors are exempt from procurement rules on the grounds that they are “in support of or associated with creative expression or special events”.

I see two challenges here:

  • The first is the global difficulty associated with valuing intangible goods and services.   The second is the claim that creative goods and services by their very nature have nuances that require sole source loopholes.  I suggest that this is an expedient claim.   We need to ask ourselves, are we moving towards a cultural economy or not? Are  we working within a ‘market’ or are we not? The tender process for each creative activity should include set budgets for shortlisted applicants to produce creative bids alongside their financial bids.  Developing creative bids costs money.  Persons who need creative services should pay for the development of creative work, even if they are bids.  That should solve the problem of getting optimal creativity, competitively.  Bidders should be given adequate time for delivery.  Too often a short turn around for bids is deliberately given because someone has already been chosen for the job, even before the bid goes out.  Many events are periodical, and budgets for them are often cast annually.  There should be no excuse for transparent procurement processes. For fairness, creative projects of over a defined value must go to tender and enough time must be provided on national calendars for this process to work.
  • The second challenge refers to the valuation of cultural goods and services.  This is a challenge faced by CCI practitioners worldwide.  In Jamaica, where we have been trading cultural and creative products for centuries,  our markets have demonstrated their ability to set uniform rates across sectors, plus or minus a few variations. Where an exceptional rate is required for exceptional talent, sole source must be justified.  However legislating the ability to use a cultural and creative purveyor of choice at will, without a competitive process does not provide a level playing field. This includes public education campaigns and special events, which have been known in the past to present perfect opportunities for money laundering, kickbacks and preferential treatment for chosen organisations.

There are a couple other challenges that need to be addressed from a governance standpoint:12

  • Governance structures for CCI still need to be rationalised.
  • There are still 6 Ministries through which CCI policy and legislation are administered and six supporting (with direct elements of policy oversight). That’s 12 Ministries.
  • A MDA dedicated to CCI development is required for CCI as a clearing house. This prevents inter agency competition, contradiction and manipulation and provides a unity of focus. The sectors are converging operationally, so must also policy.
  • Uniformity of process and purpose is critical for the development of these sectors, and I do not mean the kind that officials tell us exists, but the kind that results in effective, efficient, all of government results in policy, legislation and service delivery.
  • Satellite Accounts – well enough said. Jamaican CCI has none. We are still apportioning CCI revenues to other related sectors. This, plus the absence of data on the sectors makes it easy for information to ‘slip through the cracks’.  Without this tool, we will not be able to see either the big picture or its elements sufficiently.
Slide10To be clear, addressing these challenges is not just a technical issue… there are highly capable technical teams across the 12 ministries, and all these proposals including proposed legislative amendments exist in one form or the other across those 12 ministries.
I place these problems squarely at the feet of our representative leaders and the absence of political will to fix it…. and I suggest that this is due to cultures of expedience that we all know exist in our system.
It is certainly time that the efforts to rationalise cultural and creative industries be advanced, not only in the policy offices, but implemented in ways practitioners can feel.

Today we have spoken about corruption and a little about crimes….  Now about Craven. In the English language, ‘craven’ means, “unwilling to fight; lacking even the rudiments of courage; extremely cowardly”. 

How many of you have had a chance to listen to the Swedish environmental activist  Greta Thunberg who advocates for the blue and green economies?  

6.jpgShe is a 16 year old with the passion and courage to say to the leadership of our times, many of the things that persons twice her age are too ‘craven’ to say.  She has proven that the time has come…it is critical that we speak up about the challenges.

The JCC can help in the advocacy to this end.  It is in its interest. The emerging industries are digital, creative and innovation industries. The JCC has the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and assist in the advocacy for the full rationalisation of CCIs.  TT 

These are some of our specific recommendations for the challenges of crime and corruption in CCIs; which is only a small part of fixing our national cultural economy.


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This is important to us at Ink and Vision Ltd, because we facilitate creative enterprise Ink and Vision Ltd is a boutique agency. 

1.jpgSmall creative companies outsource some of their operations to us. Business entities who need bespoke creative services or seek to engage creative professionals  or teams for creative projects, we do the business interface on their behalf with the creative teams. So, we help traditional business-persons to speak the language of creativity.  While there are instances that the two intersect naturally, there are processes, nuances and cultures of the creative sector that are sometimes out of step with the business of business; which we admit readily.  Sometimes this requires bridging, which is what we do. We are advocates of the ‘Orange Economy’.  We believe in it and want to build it. In order to build an economy we must first fix it –  as your theme suggests face the challenges head on.

At the Institute of Caribbean Studies at the UWI, Mona where I lecture, these issues are also of concern. ICS_LOGOThe new Bachelors Degree in Cultural and Creative Industries that I coordinate, prepares young people for this new world of work.  So does the Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management BA in the ICS.  It is important that our graduates are able to navigate this emerging sector, that are and will continue to be central to national, regional and global development.

We are inviting you at the JCC to join in this effort to secure diversified business and investment portfolios that will lead to greater productivity and growth?  It has been over twenty years since creative industries officially began to be discussed globally.  CARICOM has had it squarely on its agenda since at least 2006. In 2014 revisions to the local policy started.  As we approach 2020, we look forward to its completion.

Dr. Deborah Hickling Gordon is a UNESCO Cultural Economy Expert Facility member; Lead Facilitator at the creative Facilitation firm, Ink and Vision Ltd, and coordinator of the BA in Cultural and Creative Industries a


Published by DHG Consults || Deborah Hickling Gordon, Ph.D

Dr. Deborah Hickling Gordon is a communication and culture-in-development strategist and commentator, advocate and trainer, who provides bridging and advocacy consulting services across public, corporate and creative sectors. Deborah designs and manages projects and programmes that apply cultural economy and integrated communication strategies to achieve sustainable development goals in the global South. Deborah is also a Lecturer in Cultural Studies and Cultural Economy in the Institute of Caribbean Studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona; and coordinates the B.A. In Cultural and Creative Industries.

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