The Malta Independent 3 August 2020, Monday

Minister Herrera to make case for recovery funds to be pushed towards culture sector

Giulia Magri Monday, 27 July 2020, 08:39 Last update: about 7 days ago

Culture Minister Jose Herrera will this week hold his first meeting with Finance Minister Edward Scicluna to make his case over the Covid-19 recovery funds needed to support the cultural sector in Malta.

Following the recent EU budget negotiations, Malta was, in addition to the €1.923 billion allocated from the  Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), also allocated a further €327 million from the grants of the newly established recovery instrument known as Next Generation EU, which aims to help countries recover from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Minister Herrera told this newsroom that he has a meeting coming up with Finance Minister Edward Scicluna to make his case for the amount in recovery funds that should be allocated to help the Culture sector recover.

As a result of the pandemic, Malta’s airport and ports were closed for a time, and so were cultural sites themselves. As such, a loss of income was experienced, which left the sector struggling.

Heritage trust Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna (FWA) for example, had raised an impressive €15,269.10 a few days after setting up a crowd funding campaign to raise enough money to sustain the foundation’s expenditures, but this was not enough as FWA needs a few tens of thousands more to ensure that it will weather the storm and maintain all of its current services, it had said.

The Malta Independent asked Minister Herrera whether he has been in contact with the Foundation.

“The Foundation Wirt Artna is one of the foremost NGOs when it comes to national history, so I give them special importance. Most of the requests they make to be given guardianship deals are nearly always acceded to. I helped them, and still help them to acquire new sites. The Covid-19 situation adversely affected the cultural scene.”

He mentioned Heritage Malta for example, saying that their sites lost a substantial amount of money, but said that now things are picking up again. “The St John’s Co Cathedral which was the most popular site dropped to 10% of its income.”

“So obviously a foundation like this faced many difficulties. There was help given, in the sense that employees did receive €800. What I would like to see, and I will discuss it with them, is the idea of finding diverse ways of generating your own income,” he said.

The minister said that the idea of granting curatorships is to have the sites administered in a financially independent way from the government. “If the government could administer everything itself, it wouldn’t need to grant curatorships. The government grants such curatorships as we believe in the NGO, and we hope that the NGO will subsidise the government’s expense and manpower to look after it. On the other hand, the NGO should be allowed to use the particular site to generate its own income. In this particular case that is what they were doing, but there were no tourists.”

But the minister does not believe there is need to panic, as in the coming months, “hopefully the economy will kick-start.”

As for whether the government should inject funds directly or not, he said that this is something that would need to be decided collectively by Cabinet and the Prime Minister. “One must appreciate that they are not the only NGO, there are many, and one must appreciate that our income and resources are finite, not infinite.”

Asked about the amount of EU Covid-19 funds that will be pushed towards the culture sector in Malta, he said: “I am obviously going to present my case, which is a strong one. I have a team of competent experts and I will this week have my first meeting with the Finance Minister to raise the case. I must emphasise that the creative arts, cultural and historical sectors contribute directly to 17% of our economy. 50% of tourists also come here because of our cultural scene, in the wider scope.”

The minister stressed on the importance of the culture sector, saying that without it the country would go bust.

“People come here because of what we have to offer, not just the sun. There are over 3,000 islands in the Mediterranean and most don’t have history or patrimony, so if people just want to go and swim they don’t have to come here. They come here because of our national identity, our historical background and because we are a nation state. This is what attracts foreigners here and so I will be making a strong case as to how important it is to invest in this sector. “

He said he will raise the issues and the preoccupations of such entities at the highest level.

 

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