I am disappointed with the Culture investigation due to several factors, but most regarding the fact that it focuses on organizational aspects rather than on visions or practical aspects. Much of the result can be summed up by the suggestion that 24 authorities are to become three. Statements regarding this investigation are due in just 3 months, not much time to digest 900 pages and provide good comments. The plan is to kick this off in 2010.
Why the rush? Was super organisations really what we needed and/or wanted?
When confronted by the finance situation in the Cultural Heritage sector one can’t help but ask how the sector is to survive; as it slowly but surely has been dismantled for many years and according to plan this will continue.
In 2009 the Cultural sections of the County Administrative Board applied for ca 369 million sek (ca 36 million €) in appropriations. In the end 210 millions was granted i.e. a gap of 159 million or 43% less than was applied for. Now it’s not quite as bad as it looks. The applied money can be divided into two parts; money for basic activity and money for various project applications (which most often is sought from external partners such as museums via the Cultural sections of the County Administrative Boards). I would guess the latter part is ca 20% of the applied amount i.e. ca 74 million sek. A large proportion of these projects will never be realized neither will parts of the planned activities.
I feel that is a problem that there is such a big discrepancy between funds applied and approved as this shows that there is a great need for funding. Furthermore I believe it would be better for all parts if the museums and different organisiation where to apply directly to the National Heritage Board instead of making the extra step via the County Administrative Board.
In the beginning of this post I mentioned the dismantling of the cultural heritage sector (and for that matter many other government sectors), which have been lasting for several years. It is one thing if this was a clearly stated objective, against which the sector could respond to. As it is now the government do not to provide full compensation for price and wage developments, the 2008 ratio was approximately 0.8: 3. i.e. raising the allocation with 0.8% while prices and wages rose by about 3 percent is cut back with more 2,2 %. This combined with “market” rent for the premises occupied, which in many cases are rooms that may only be used for a single purpose, such as museums. The state gives with one hand takes it back with the other. The effect is that they slowly but surely dismantle the sector without adding special saving requirements, read more about it here (article in Swedish).
Unfortunately it feels like it doesn’t matter wheatear we have a right or left government, when none of them seems to have an ideological or visionary interest in these issues. The system was introduced by the Social democrats and is being retained by the non socialist government of today, i.e. the dismantling has been in effect for more than 15 years. And during this 15 years Sweden has been doing good financially. I don’t know if the effect has been 2 %/ year but either way it is a lot of money and services lost. Now it must be said that it is in principle applicable to cultural policy as a whole and not only those related to cultural heritage.
As I see it most of the ideas that is brought forth in this investigation is yesterdays news, it feels old and dusty and do not set a vision for either today or tomorrow. Why place the Cultural heritage sector together with art and exhibits when most work we do is in a higher degree connected with issues regarding planning, development, environmental protection, landscape etc.
I hope that this proposal does not go through as it stands today.
Now I’ve sulked long enough on this, it is time for something more uplifting and less domestic; next post is on Osteology, and that’s a promise!