Celestino Fadul or “Mang Celing”, 87 years old, a seasoned carver, started carving at 15 and is the first and oldest carver in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
In Tuesday’s editorial, we explored the impact of Korean popular culture on the world, the result of a sustained and disciplined policy and investment effort by the South Korean government and people. While Korean culture is certainly unique, its approach to maximizing the economic and geopolitical value of it need not be, but the opportunities presented by the development of the “creative economy” are often overlooked or underutilized by policy makers.
A report released last week by the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) highlighted the importance of the “creative economy” for development. The implicit point of the report is that while not all countries have readily available conventional economic assets to rely on, every country has a culture of creativity that constitutes a potentially formidable diverse resource base.
UNCTAD defines creative industries as “cycles of creation, production and distribution of goods and services that use creativity and intellectual capital as main inputs. They include a set of knowledge-based activities that produce goods intangible intellectual or artistic materials and services with creative content, economic value and market objectives.
The report also explains that exports of creative services far exceed those of creative goods, and although services should be easier for developing countries to develop, as they require very few material inputs, developing countries “are underrepresented and face barriers to exporting these services”, leading to a significant trade gap between developed and developing countries. Among the obstacles facing developing economies are the lack of professional training, relevant infrastructure (such as reliable telecommunications and Internet networks) and political support from the government.
Nonetheless, the creative economy continues to grow in some developing countries and in some places is recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic faster than other parts of the economy. The UNCTAD report also notes that more countries have introduced policies to support creative industries in 2020 and 2021, using the rapid shift to digitalization caused by the pandemic to try to accelerate their economic recovery.
What may seem a bit irritating to policymakers in the Philippines is that the UNCTAD report identified – without, however, singling out the country – the precise problems that creative economy advocates here have long identified as disabilities for the Philippines to reach its full potential.
First, there are challenges even in consistently defining and identifying creative industries, and effectively tracking relevant data about them. This makes it difficult to benchmark and compare economic performance, on the one hand, and on the other, complicates the creation of supportive policies and regulations. After all, the government cannot develop an effective strategy for something it does not fully understand.
Second, UNCTAD identifies three areas where “multidisciplinary policy responses” are needed to “strengthen the impacts of creative sector development”. The first of these is education; the second, digital infrastructure; and the third and perhaps most problematic, legal frameworks related to the creative economy. Areas of particular concern in this regard include the protection and management of intellectual property rights, taxation and labor issues. In many countries, creative workers as well as other actors in the so-called gig economy fall outside the legal definitions upon which labor protections are based. This can lead to a harmful perception that creative work is “not real work” and puts creative workers at risk of being exploited or relegated to the informal economy. Clearly, this type of environment is not conducive to growth, whether at the level of individual creative workers or companies, or to advancing the national economy.
In fairness to some lawmakers and concerned agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the potential value of the creative economy has not been entirely overlooked, and various initiatives and measures to address it have been proposed in recent years. years. However, a strong and comprehensive national policy, such as that which has been key to South Korea’s resounding success, remains to be considered. We think that’s a mistake; perhaps not a deliberate omission, but a damaging omission nonetheless. As we said in Tuesday’s editorial, the Philippines is a virtual goldmine of potential creative and production talent. Cultivating and encouraging the growth of these resources should be a priority, not an afterthought.