Last week, executives of the state agency CreativeTT answered questions from the Public Accounts (Enterprises) Committee (PAEC) about spending under their watch. FashionTT had good news about its tailoring project, lauding the Ultra Bespoke Tailoring programme hosted by Trinidad-born Savile Row tailor Andrew Ramroop at a cost of $3.7 million. The certificate in tailoring overseen by Ramroop, owner of the exclusive Maurice Sedwell shop is still to be accredited. It concluded with a well regarded graduation ceremony in March that not only yielded more than $100,000 in sales from student work, but the best student’s craft has opened opportunities for them to work as interns at Ramroop’s establishment.
CreativeTT chairman Calvin Bijou took note of a FilmTT yield of $10 million in spending by 10 film production crews over the last six months. Bijou could not speak to the foreign exchange earning potential of these CreativeTT initiatives but said the agency was using improved metrics when evaluating any investments brought for their consideration.
It's probably too early to chart any long-term arc for the students that attended Ramroop's course, since only the first tranche of students have graduated from it, but as Ramroop sagely warned during the graduation, “the skill has to be sustainable. They (the students) can’t be falling back into old habits.”
It’s a warning that CreativeTT should heed generally. It’s not as if CreativeTT began operating in a vacuum when it was established in 2013. The agency inherited and should be able to reference the work done by the state agency it absorbed, FilmTT, in existence since 2006.
As part of its mandate to develop the film industry in Trinidad and Tobago, FilmTT version one was responsible for attracting and managing the presence of film crews and production to TT. No business would sensibly begin without a plan for success, and while the course charted at the start might bear little resemblance to the final journey, a start point and destination are always a critical element of any business plan.
In addressing the PAEC, CreativeTT should have been better prepared to speak about the many initiatives it has pursued over the last six years, not all of which, it must be prepared to admit, have had the type of success it hoped for. CreativeTT is still talking vaguely about contributing two per cent of GDP through its diversification efforts and that simply isn't good enough.
Six years after its formation and 16 years after the establishment of FilmTT, the public, via the reporting commanded by the PAEC, should be hearing a more frank and realistic evaluation of its projects, its plans for real world returns on taxpayer investment and not just defensive flag-waving of its few clear successes.