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NPP made empty promises to us – Rex Omar

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For years, players in the creative arts industry have lamented the neglect of the sector by successive governments, as well as their failed promises.
After being disappointed with the erstwhile National Democratic Congress(NDC) government’s treatment of the sector, a glimmer of hope was offered during the 2016 elections by the then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), whose manifesto offered some big solutions to the industry’s challenges.

Two years into the NPP’s administration, many of the industry stakeholders who joined the ‘Change’ wagon are unhappy with the government’s efforts.

Sure, some steps have been taken including the establishment of the Creative Arts Council but its impact has been minimal because there is no legislation to make it operational.

In a telephone conversation on the state of the creative arts industry, Chairman of the Ghana Music Rights Organisation (GHAMRO), Rex Omar, told Graphic Showbiz the NPP government made empty promises to the creative arts industry. For him, the government was only good at providing lip service to the sector.

“Honestly, NPP’s manifesto was just a love letter to the creative arts industry because if we are to judge them by where they outlined a number of projects for the creative industry, then they have failed woefully.

Some of the highlights of the manifesto concerning the creative industry include the review and implementation of the Culture Policy developed under the administration of former President J.A. Kufuor, building a detailed inventory of the country’s cultural assets to build a database and establishing a Creative Arts Fund to make available funds to modernise and develop the sector.

Others were to create a Division of the High Court, focusing on the Creative Arts to deal with all matters relating to intellectual property rights, establish a Creative Arts Council to coordinate and harmonise the fragmented associations into a well-functioning body and pursue the construction of modern large seating theatres in every regional capital except Accra.

“Is it not interesting that while the industry is crying for attention and investment, the sector Ministry has bought the hosting rights of AFRIMA at an expensive fee when it doesn’t benefit the country? Do we know how the amount invested in that Nigerian-owned project would have fetched our industry?” he asked.

Rex Omar said he had hoped for better days but his expectations had not been met because nothing was happening.

“Just go and read the NPP manifesto and you will know that it is too ambitious and too good to be true. For instance, they promised to build 10 regional theatres, where is the foundation for even a theatre?

“Today, the same people who made these huge promises for which they got overwhelming endorsement from industry players are inaugurating refurbished cultural centres. Really? Is that what was promised? he asked.

Rex Omar pointed out that his argument was based on records of previous governments and not just on an undue attack on the current government.

“It appears the industry had a lot of attention from the powers that be during the revolutionary days. I remember how under Rawlings, it hosted ‘Meet Me There’ and many talents were unearthed.

“That isn’t all, when democratic rule started with Rawlings still at the helm of affairs, he provided a facility for MUSIGA and gave regular tokens which many artistes benefited from. When Atta Mills assumed office, he also gave the sector GHc2 million and though it was obviously not enough, it was a great initiative.

“Mahama may not have performed well but at least the government started the Creative Arts Council. What can the NPP also show apart from their empty promises?

Rex Omar said “the creative arts industry deserves more and we must demand accountability and hold our leaders to fulfill their promises and not only have use for us during campaign time,” he stated.

Showbiz contacted sector minister, Madam Catherine Abelema Afeku, who sent in a statement detailing all that the Ministry was able to achieve in 2018.

Highlights included providing financial and logistical support for the Black Star Film International Film Festival (BSIFF), setting up a task team to draft a Legislative Instrument to make the Film Act which was passed in 2016, operational.

The team, headed by George Bosompem, an Executive Member of GAFTA and a lecturer at NAFTI with other members from the Attorney General’s office, the Copyright Office and an independent legal practitioner, engaged stakeholders at a three-day retreat at the Volta Serene Hotel.

The statement said the team also held five other sessions in Accra with the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association and other related industry practitioners, and in the Ashanti regional capital, Kumasi.

It also stated that the Creative Arts Industry Bill has gone through Cabinet and is now in Parliament for deliberation and passage into Law. The Creative Arts Fund, according to the statement has also been incorporated in the Bill.

The Ministry said Ghana hosted the first African Union Pan African Writers Conference as well as the All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA). It also supported the Chale Wote FestivalGlitz Africa Fashion Week and organised the Ghana Theatre Festival which was held in September.

The statement also disclosed that a modern regional theatre was completed for the NAFAC celebration while the Minister led delegations to Kumasi, Tamale and Takoradi to inspect work on theatres under construction there.

The Ministry also sectured a US$ 40 million facility from the World Bank. Under Component 3 of the facility, there is US$5 million for a Tourism enterprise support programme.

This component aims to provide tourism SMEs, particularly women-owned SMEs, with the opportunity to improve their business planning and apply for matching grants to upgrade their tourism products and services.

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