It is estimated that there are as many Jamaicans living abroad as there are in Jamaica. This is because many people who are of Jamaican descent, but who have not themselves been to Jamaica, claim Jamaican identity.
This is undoubtedly a definite sign of the strength of the values, patterns of thought, and behaviour that are distinctly Jamaican. As such, people of Jamaican descent hold fast to their "Jamaicaness" because this unique culture is kept alive, regardless of what societies they live and work in.
Over the years, Jamaican patois has served as a crucially important medium to keep our culture alive, as the language is spoken by all Jamaicans, whether they also speak English as well or not. The global use of patois is constantly reinforced and spread by Jamaican popular music which, in all its forms -- folk, mento, ska, rocksteady, reggae, and dancehall -- also preserves and spreads the fundamental tenets of our culture.
Moreover, Jamaican popular music has become a global force, influencing millions of people all over the world. Many stories are told of people struggling for human rights and against injustice finding motivation in Mr Bob Marley's Get Up, Stand Up. Indeed, his song Zimbabwe became a rallying cry for post-apartheid Rhodesia and resulted in him being invited to perform at Zimbabwe's independence celebrations in April 1980.
It is against that background that we share the anxiety of our columnist, Mrs Tamara Scott-Williams, for the establishment of the National Commission on Cultural and Creative Industries announced by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in her contribution to the 2012/13 Budget debate.
In a recent column on this issue, Mrs Scott-Williams reminded us that the prime minister declared that our music, cuisine, dance, and other forms of artistic expression "all represent significant value with tremendous economic potential in an increasingly globalised world".
Globally, the cultural and creative industries have an estimated worth of US$2.2 trillion and are growing at an annual rate of five per cent, Mrs Scott-Williams shared with us.
"This industry, which exists to create, produce, and/or distribute copyright materials, affords Jamaica its greatest foreign exchange earning potential and should be placed at the forefront of the search for economic solutions. In fact, according to the Creative Economy 2010, published by the United Nations, 'the Government (of Jamaica) needs to focus on reggae, film and other creative services to grow the ailing economy'," Mrs Scott-Williams wrote.
The potential of our culture to earn much-needed foreign exchange for the country has not been lost on successive administrations. The problem, though, is that our governments have talked more than acted to realise that potential.
We accept that in the current economic crisis in which the country finds itself, the Government is hard-pressed to provide resources to the creative industries, especially as other vital sectors are in dire need.
However, the crisis demands that we look carefully at all areas with potential to attract investments, create jobs, and earn foreign exchange.