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Jamaica’s Animation Industry – How is it doing?

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Jamaica’s Animation Industry, how is it doing?

Not very well in 2016, according to Corretta Singer, Chair of the Jamaica Animation Nation Network. She was not in the mood to mince words.

“it’s not going as great as most people would have hoped. Studios are teetering on the edge of closure, training institutions are teaching students with very little know-how on Animation, and Animation quality is lacking.”

According to Singer, Jamaica is not venturing in animation for the first time. During the 1970s, attempts to launch an animation industry in the island were short lived. Leo Sullivan and Floyd Norman, the first black animators to work with Disney and Hanna Barbera, wanted to start a Jamaican animation studio. Numerous challenges and political barriers met their efforts. Ever since, animators attempted to build their animation craft, but with limited success.

So, how about now?

The Jamaican Animation Industry now

More players have entered the Jamaican Animation game. From the start, the Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) promoted new industries and innovations in Jamaica. In partnership with the World Bank, the Korean Trust, and the Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology (MSET), JAMPRO and an overseas studio –  Studio C,  collaborated to further develop Jamaica’s animation industry. They expect that investment and export opportunities related to the Jamaican animation product will grow.

Using the Youth Employment in the Digital and Animation Industries (YEDAI) programme as its vehicle, the partners trained and equipped young people in animation skills. In April 2017, YEDAI launched the Creative Industries Education and Employment project. This project trains youth in animation and prepares them for employment in the international animation market.

Also, local animation studios set up shop to bite into the lucrative US$254 billion-dollar global industry (2018 estimates). They include the Alcyone Animation Studio, the developers of the increasingly popular Cabbie Chronicles, and the award-winning Reel Rock GSW Studio.

Strong Growth Potential of Jamaican Animation Industry

Industry players see animation as one of the fastest growing industries globally set to reach US$270 billion in revenue by the end of 2020. By all indications, Jamaica has the talent and capability to take a decent slice of the global animation pie.

Indeed, Jamaica’s animation industry has the potential to provide thousands of jobs for animators, art directors, producers, directors, voiceover actors, writers, and other categories of talent. In a general sense, Jamaica has the necessary creativity to become a hub for animation that is competitive with the Australian and East Asian markets.

The question is whether Jamaica can ensure that young, talented people make animation their actual career.

Undoubtedly, young Jamaicans have always done well at the visual arts. This achievement is demonstrated by the 2,500 high school students who over the past four years gained grades 1 or 2 in the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) Visual Arts Exams. The real challenge is providing youth with the knowledge and tools to apply themselves fully to animation as a career.

Furthermore, a first step in boosting Jamaica’s involvement in the animation industry is the development of an ICT hub. Evidently, the animation sector is poised to help Jamaica to drive ICT innovation.

The growth of technology and internet penetration in Jamaica has boosted opportunities for Jamaican participation in the world animation industry. Jamaican animators can collaborate with project teams in multiple countries. Within a few years, Jamaica has the potential to become the place of choice for outsourced high-quality animation products.

Training and Employment in the Animation Industry

Evidently, Jamaica has managed to get a foot in the door. As Jamaica’s Film Commissioner Renee Robinson puts it,

“Over the past 10 years, Jamaica has created more than 20,000 temporary jobs to service the animation industry, along with attracting over a thousand international film projects, and generating J$6 billion (US$7.75) in capital expenditure.”

Naturally, the hope is that any growth in Jamaica’s animation sector will help to stimulate Jamaica’s overall economic growth.

In reality, according to UTech’s Senior Lecturer and Programme Director of Animation, Production, and Development Nadine Maitland, Jamaica immediately needs 200 additional persons with animation skills to fill the gaps. At the time (November 2018) Jamaica had a little more than 50 animators.

Maitland notes that

“If Jamaica is to capitalise on the opportunities that will arise from this emerging industry, there must be deliberate efforts in the training of its people.”

It was in September 2013 that Utech introduced its 4-year Bachelor of Science Degree in animation production and development (BSc APD) through its School of Computing and Information Technology. The institution trained its first cohort of twenty-five students. Subsequently, this degree programme grew considerably, and UTech became the foremost institution in the Caribbean providing tertiary level training in animation production. In 2018 UTech had 135 students enrolled in its four-year programme.

Challenges for Jamaicans

In 2017, Singer was a little more optimistic about the state of animation in Jamaica. She, however, pointed to some concerns that remained potential barriers.

  1. Public education practitioners and students still regarded animation as “just art” that does not make money;
  2. High Customs duties on computers and components put these tools out of reach of the average animator. “Having to pay US$1500 for a computer and then another US$600 – 1000 to import it, is crippling. Hardcore workstations used by overseas studios cost upwards of US$15,000.”

Bright future ahead

Notwithstanding the challenges, there are other encouraging signs. International interest in Jamaican animation grew significantly. For the third time since its inaugural staging, the KingstOOn Animation Competition and Conference was held in Jamaica between April 5 – 7, 2019 at the University of Technology (Utech). The two previous occasions were in 2013 and 2016. KingstOOn succeeded in exposing Jamaican animation talent to a broad cross-section of interested industry players and sponsors.

The future of the Jamaican animation industry looks promising as more sponsors come on board. These include Bento Box, Toon Boom Inc, Capilano College, and the Government of Canada.

JAMPRO, through its Film Commissioner, encourages young animators to remain connected to global, technological and regulatory trends and be always prepared for opportunities. JAMPRO’s Film Commission provides opportunities for animators to expose their talents at major and developing film trade events.

Peter Parchment is a highly trained professional with twelve (12) years senior executive experience in Policy Formulation, Monitoring & Evaluation, Strategic Planning in the Public Sector, and Social Research. A strategic thinker with strong problem-solving skills, people and resource management skills and the ability to think outside the box. Equipped with sound technical report writing and consultation facilitation skills and knowledgeable in the workings of Government and the Public Service. Experienced in working with rural and urban communities in a variety of locally and externally funded projects. He is also trained in Media and Communications and writes for online clients and publications. [email protected]

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Modernising Jamaican Workplaces

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A lot of changes are being seen in Jamaica, which are steadily improving the economy and the standard of living of our people. A cultural explosion is happening; where our art, music, food and dances are being tapped into and used for various events and initiatives. As we are modernising in most aspects, the state of our workplaces and the archaic structures need to experience a fresh and invigorating renovation as well.

The world as we know it is actively changing. The development of technologies and the ease of accessing information are continuously being revised, improved and refined. Societies have come a long way due to the benefits of globalization and international trade.

Competing in the Global Arena

Recently, JAMPRO had a Future of Work Conference and it shed light on many things, in particular, our great need to change our structures. One of the speakers, Ms. Gloria Henry, the President of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), instilled that:

“We need to look at communities that support the wellbeing, the cognitive development, the lifestyles and the new mind-set that we are seeking to cultivate.”

This is a stark realization that Jamaica has a need to make changes within. This changing global environment has our current structures and processes seeming completely obsolete. We are no longer in a bubble, we are in a global arena, where our people have to compete with many others. Competition is fierce, and only the best of the best are drafted onto teams for many world-leading organizations.

Unlocking Our Potential

As the world is revolutionising itself, Jamaica needs to be adequately equipped to be on the track and not on the side-lines. Our potential for greatness is unmatched and we are truly a force. Jamaica is a blessed country with talented individuals who continue to make a mark on this Earth. A quick scroll through social media will see many Jamaicans flying the flag high in various countries, golden representations.

It is puzzling though how the Jamaican work environment remains stagnant with all these changes. The practices that we have are no longer serving us but drastically limiting us. The management of our organizations need to start building and not restricting individuals.

Structures such as flexi-work and work from home need to be implemented in order to contribute to our productivity, innovation and creativity. Employees need to start experiencing more autonomy and not be stuck at a role for years that doesn’t challenge them. Why are we moving at a snail’s pace with this needed change to our structures?

Building Anew

It is clear as day that employees have no need to remain in this strict nine to five atmosphere that is stifling creativity and creating misery. This traditional style of management is surely becoming a hindrance to our nation, and many young persons are voicing their displeasure. A work environment that is constantly being likened to slavery is a cause for concern. A look at the state of the actual environment is also a matter to discuss for another day, or at least another article, “Better Work Spaces, Increased Productivity“. Work is only one aspect of our lives, where we have to be juggling many other issues and situations, but the nature of work in Jamaica seems like a vise grip to many nowadays.

In shaping and changing our infrastructures and practices, the creation of a modern work environment will boast many benefits to our standard of living and the way in which we do business. In defining a modern workplace, the website NH Learning Solutions remarked that “An organization must evolve into a flexible environment that allows for continued communication and collaboration.” The innovation and creativity of our organizations are guaranteed to also impact the society. A modern workplace will increase productivity and improve our work-life balance, where factors of health and wellness can be better adapted. Jamaica needs to enter this path of growth, our future leaders need it.

 

 

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Govt. Extends EPOC: It Will Continue After IMF Ends November

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The Economic Programme Oversight Committee, EPOC will continue to operate after Jamaica’s programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ends in November 2019. That is the word from the Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. Nigel Clarke recently. The work of EPOC was supposed to end at the same time the three-year Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (PSBA) with the IMF terminates in November.

MOU Signed

The Finance Minister and the Chairman of EPOC, Keith Duncan, on August 22, 2019, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the Finance Ministry that will see EPOC operating beyond 2019. The President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, Howard Mitchell was among other signatories to this MOU.

Under this MOU, EPOC will continue to monitor Jamaica’s economic reforms after the current arrangement with the IMF expires. EPOC’s work will continue until the Government of Jamaica establishes the Fiscal Council and puts in place the institutional framework that enables the Bank of Jamaica to become an independent monetary entity. The Cabinet already approved the creation of the independent Fiscal Council.

The independent Fiscal Council will be a permanent institution established by law to promote fiscal policies that are economically sustainable. Such policies would transcend partisan considerations. Government’s extension of EPOC is also part of its agreement with the IMF to keep its office operating for another two years once the Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement ends in November.

Legal Arrangements to be made for Fiscal Council and BOJ

In his address to the audience at the signing ceremony, Minister Clarke stated that  “the government is far advanced in enacting legislation to modernise the Bank of Jamaica, inclusive of the institutionalising independence in the implementation of monetary policy. We are working to table legislation by April 2020 to implement the Fiscal Council that will strengthen Jamaica’s fiscal responsible framework and be an independent arbiter of Jamaica’s fiscal rules.”

He further emphasised that the government is “committed to empowering EPOC to continue in a monitoring role until our central bank and Fiscal Council policy commitments are operationalised.” Jamaica is far advanced in its steps to complete the Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement with the IMF. This achievement marks another success as the country had brought the previous IMF Extended Fund Facility arrangement to a successful early end in November 2016.

Legislation to be tabled, April 2020

Jamaica’s approximately six-and-a-half-years of collaborating with the IMF has been described as successful. The Finance Minister indicated that Jamaica’s macroeconomic achievements have been recognised around the world as a success story. He attributed the success to the effort and sacrifice that the people of Jamaica made throughout the six and a half years. “..we owe it to the Jamaican people to preserve and build on these gains even as we work to address the other important challenges.” He said.

While the Finance Minister was not able to indicate the expected duration of EPOC’s extension, he explained that the duration depends on Parliament approval of the legislative arrangements for the fiscal council and enabling the independence of the central bank. He indicated, however, that the tabling of the legislative arrangements will occur by April 2020.

 

EPOC Monitoring Continues

Meanwhile, Keith Duncan expressed his pleasure in serving in this interim period. He promised to keep the public abreast on the government’s economic reform programme. He declared that EPOC will communicate any concerns with the economic reform programme to the Jamaican public, as it has been doing since it was established in 2013.

Among the items on EPOC’s agenda is its focus on Jamaica achieving its fiscal rules including a 60 percent debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio by 2025/2026. Jamaica is already seeing the benefits of the GoJ’s fiscal responsibility programme and EPOC’s chairman expressed confidence that the country will continue along this fiscal discipline path.

About EPOC

EPOC is made up of 11 representatives from the private and public sectors and civil society. This group receives and assesses information from the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) to track Jamaica’s progress against the agreed targets outlined in the 2016 PSBA with the IMF.

It monitors the monetary, fiscal, and financial sector indicators agreed under the standby agreement. Through these targets, the GOJ expects to maintain the macroeconomic stability that was achieved under the previous agreement with the IMF. Jamaica’s renewed focus is on growth and job creation as well as the maintenance of fiscal responsibility.

The EPOC committee meets quarterly for monitoring based on the quarterly targets and the semi-annual IMF reviews. A technical sub-committee also meets monthly to carry out ongoing analysis of the Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement.

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Jamaica is Ready to Exit IMF

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“Jamaica is ready to exit IMF financial support”. That is the word from Dr. Constant Longeng Ngouana, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Resident Representative in Jamaica. He was speaking at a recent media interview where he shared his views on Jamaica’s economic performance. The IMF resident representative expressed his belief that Jamaica’s success in its economic performance over the past few years has placed the country in a position to exit the IMF programme and take care of its economic affairs.

Jamaica is currently benefitting from a US$1.6-billion Precautionary Stand-By Arrangement (PSBA) with the IMF. Previously, the island was in an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) between 2013 to 2016. Jamaica first entered into a standby agreement with the international lending institution in 2010.

Borrowing Relationship with IMF to end in September

Jamaica’s existing arrangement with the IMF is to end in September 2019. According to the IMF resident representative, the Fund will continue the partnership with the island. The nature of the future relationship with Jamaica will be consultative and not involve new financial support. The expected change in the relationship between the country and the IMF is in recognition of Jamaica’s maturity in policymaking and the economy. Jamaica expects to graduate from the borrowing arrangement with the IMF as projected barring unforeseen circumstances.

Ngouana praised Jamaica’ achievement which he acknowledged has taken place over a relatively short time. Since 2013, Jamaica has exceeded the various targets that were agreed between itself and the IMF. The results were the tremendous economic turn around that the country experienced. Initial doubts that Jamaica would have successfully transitioned economically from its dire position to its much-improved position disappeared.

… everybody is in agreement that this has been a tremendous turnaround and we get calls all the time asking how did the Jamaican people do it. It’s really an economic transformation for such a short period,” Ngouana said.

An ingredient that enabled Jamaica’s success is the sound policymaking that is based on a broad consensus from stakeholders. Consequently, Jamaica was able to achieve positive economic growth within a short period.

Jamaica’s Achievements

Among Jamaica’s impressive achievements were:

  • The reduction of the public debt from 147 percent of GDP in March 2013 to 95 percent by March 2019
  • An increase in the Net International Reserves (NIR) from US $1 billion in 2013 to more than US$ 3 billion
  • The reduction in inflation from double-digits to single digits within six years
  • A reduction in the unemployment rate from 16.3 percent in April 2013 to 7.8 percent in April 2019
  • A 1.9 percent growth in the Jamaica economy in 2018-19.

Although the rate of Jamaica’s economic growth was not at the targeted levels, the actual performance of a 1.9 percent growth in 2018-19 represents the best performance compared to the past 20 years.

Crime, however, remains a serious concern. Although Jamaica continues to grapple the crime problem, the island needs to do more to increase the gains achieved to date. Ngouana also indicated that the modernisation of Jamaica’s agriculture is also a reform that is necessary to further stimulate economic growth. Another structural impediment to growth is the limited access to financing that the country currently experiences.

IMF Team’s Latest Assessment

Previously, a staff team from the IMF led by Uma Ramakrishnan was in Jamaica from June 10 to 14, 2019. That visit came ahead of the sixth and final review under the IMF’s Stand-By Agreement to be held in September 2019. After the visit, the IMF team leader released a statement. Included in that statement were the following observations by the IMF team.

Jamaica’s improved economic growth in FY2018/19 was buoyed by construction and mining. Unemployment is now at an all-time low of 8 percent. The inflation outturn was 3.9 percent (y/y) in April, closer to the Bank of Jamaica’s (BOJ) target range of 4–6 percent. The primary surplus was almost 7½ percent of GDP in FY2018/19, with public debt falling to about 95 percent of GDP at end-March 2019—the lowest since FY2000/01. Non-borrowed reserves were US$430 million above target at end-March 2019, providing (a) critical buffer against unforeseen global economic shocks.”

The statement lauded the BOJ’s recent accommodative policies to restore inflation to the target range.  It further commended Jamaica’s reduction in the Cash Reserve Requirement by 5 percentage points during the current fiscal year and the successive policy rate cuts to 0.75 percent. The IMF noted that these actions should support private credit expansion as the government continues to deleverage.  Furthermore, strengthened central bank supervision and risk management practices at lending institutions will be vital to ensure careful assessment of risks for financial stability.

Also, the IMF statement noted that the execution of the budget for the fiscal year 2019/20 is underpinned by continued buoyant tax collections in April and above budget capital expenditure which is regarded as an encouraging new normal for Jamaica.

IMF’s Recommendations for Jamaica

Among the other recommendations from the IMF is that the central bank should limit its interventions in the foreign exchange market to “episodes of significant market dislocations.”  At the same time, the IMF noted,  the continued shifts in the value of the currency indicate an urgent need for the central bank to adopt a foreign exchange trading platform. This platform should enhance market transparency and price discovery. Hedging instruments for FX trading may also be developed.

In order to entrench the hard-fought gains Jamaica has achieved, the IMF recommended that the Jamaican government keep its commitment to:

(i) enact amendments to the BOJ Act to adopt a full-fledged inflation targeting framework,

(ii) create a policy framework for natural disasters risk financing, and

(iii) table legislation for the establishment of an independent Fiscal Council

The Fund also recommended that the country strengthen efforts to enhance the special resolution regime and consolidated supervision of financial conglomerates. This action was recommended by the recent IMF Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP).  The IMF, however, noted that these actions “require strong coordination among the BOJ and the Financial Services Commission (FSC).”

The IMF statement also reiterated the need for the Jamaican government to implement new streamlined and performance-based compensation framework for its employees. This recommended action should take place before the next round of wage negotiations. The Fund noted that this reform action will ultimately result in a more cost-effective and efficient public sector.

Meanwhile, Ngouana encouraged Jamaicans to remain on the present growth and reform path. He insisted that

“Jamaica has come too far to allow for any reversal. Sacrifice has been far-reaching by all Jamaicans and we (IMF) encourage the Jamaican people to stay the course.”

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