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Georgia/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.3 Other relevant issues and debates

After the parliamentary elections in 2012, one of the most debated issues has been a paradigmatic approach of the reform in the sphere of culture. The problem in Georgian cultural policy is not having a paradigmatic approach to culture in whole or in part, but understanding the essence of a "cultural" component of the cultural good and its significance in a long-term strategy.

Moreover, culture is becoming increasingly important as a tool of the political and economic power of the elite: In Georgian cultural policy a significant, fast emerging, class of political and financial elites is implanting the ideology of a "consumption" policy. This naturally reflects on cultural consumption and participation. In Georgia cultural consumption is a field for further manipulation of a well-established political PR system. The best illustration of this is the architecture of the "new" Georgia beginning from the presidential palace to the cultural complex on Rike in Tbilisi, as well as the pseudo-rehabilitation projects such as the Rabat complex in Akhaltsikhe. In the long term, the implementation of such a policy through manipulating consumption in order to ease the government will result in an even more rapid decline in public taste.

Cultural consumption is differentiated

Consumption is changing at the expense of diversification and stratification of society; an increase in forming in the gap between the elite and the majority of the population which stays near the poverty line. However, the emergence of a middle class slowly occurs, albeit at the expense of the bureaucracy.

Over the past 20 years (1990 to 2010), no surveys and other systematic studies have been conducted in the culture area; there are no accurate data on culture from the State Department of Statistics. However, we can say that there is an empirically revealed correlation between income level, education level and intensity of cultural consumption.

It is obvious that the public, the majority of which is near the poverty line, cannot participate to the full extent in the process of creation and consumption of the cultural product; for the same reason it is impossible for the majority of the public to provide adequate care for the privately-owned cultural heritage that damages the common cultural landscape and heritage. All these factors provoke impunity for political and economic elites, which have lobbied for and implemented such projects as "The New Life of Old Tbilisi", which resulted in the unqualified reconstruction and restoration of historic districts and was a futile waste of budgetary funds.

Cultural consumption is also differentiated according to the place of residence: the lowest traditionally remains in the countryside, where the cultural infrastructure is poorly developed. Therefore, the general political task of ensuring equal access to culture and levelling participation in cultural life remains relevant throughout the country. The tools for solving this problem may be the Internet. The level of cultural consumption and nature of participation vary under the effect of such factors as, for example, the economic crisis, under which the free services provided by public institutions become more attractive. "Domestic consumption of culture" is also growing (Use of the Internet and the option of downloading, often illegally, various cultural and artistic content).

After the parliamentary elections in October 2012 and the change of power, the decentralisation models were considered.

15 months after the elections (1.10.2012-1.03.2014) the new government declared the principles of decentralisation as fixed in the Strategy of Decentralisation and Self-government for 2013-2014 created by the Ministry of Regional Development and Infrastructure of Georgia.

The cultural policy of the cohabitation period is homogeneous: the structural changes have not yet been carried out; only the top officials of the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia and several major institutions have been replaced. The forms and the funding rate for culture remained the same. The conceptual rethinking of the legislative sphere and solving of tactical problems in the field of cultural heritage is in process. The pressing problems have been filtering and ranking through the thematic committees established under the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia. The round tables - sectorial and thematic - aimed at the identification of the needs and concerns of different fields of the Culture are being carried out:

Identification of the problem (2013-14)

  • the openness of public cultural policy does not always meet European standards;
  • the decision-making system and indicators are not always clear;
  • underdevelopment of civil society: the lack of responsibility and involvement in the protection of cultural heritage, urban planning matters, etc.
  • the legislation remains unbalanced:
    • The primary issues are to improve the legislative framework in the field of cultural heritage, especially in the context of decentralisation and self-government reform, and the Concordat.
    • Over the past 15 years, the representatives of culture have required the introduction of the Sponsorship Law as a means of diversification of the financing of culture and legislative improvements for the delimitation of powers and the protection of regional and municipal sectors of culture. The central government was quite sceptical about this idea.
    • After the parliamentary elections in 2012, one of the most debated issues of the legal reform in the sphere of culture has been the centralisation of management of theatrical structures. The Law on Professional Theatres was passed in 2013 which appears to be a hasty response to the Law on State Theatres of 2006.
    • The approach to art education is more careful. The general concept of the system legal reforms in the sphere of higher creative education – the basic principles of legislative initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia has been developed; in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Science the work on the improvement of the Higher Education Law is in process.

Which methods are crucial for today?

Expert Methods: sectorial and thematic commissions

The procedure for the election of the sectorial committees and thematic working groups varies, and is mainly based on the need for system analysis, however, the solving of transient issues, dichotomy and politicisation at the various levels of government do not contribute to long-term strategic planning. However, one example of institutional development is the procedure for creating the Advisory Board for the election of candidates for the post of art directors of the professional theatres; the charter and aims and objectives of the Advisory Board have been prescribed. Its composition includes 7 professional theatre critics appointed for a term of 4 years. The Board's working and membership principles have been developed:

  • participants of the thematic working groups: the state and other stakeholders, expert communities – nongovernmental sector, the media; to a lesser extent - the private sector and local authorities;
  • groups have been working in the permanent force majeure regime as the urgency of situation and multiple problems accumulated in this sphere evidence the weakness of the previous and  current management, the lack of strategic managerial skills and knowledge;
  • consultation with various sectors of culture in Georgia are conducted mainly through round tables and presentations;
  • a work plan of each commission and thematic working group is different and consistent with the objectives of creating commissions.

Advisory Boards and Working Groups

  • 14.12.2012 – working group on the study of documentation in the rehabilitation of cultural heritage and in the issues of the ongoing new developments in historical urban areas;
  • 22.01.2013 - working group on the settlement of legal acts in the field of higher creative education;
  • 25.02.2013 - advisory board to the Minister of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia on the protection of cultural heritage;
  • 23.05.2013 - advisory board to the Minister of Culture and Monuments Protection of Georgia in the field of museums; and
  • 12.07.2013 - the contest of nominations to the Advisory Board for the election of candidates for the post of art directors of public professional theatres.

Key Learning Points

In 2012-2013 the evaluation of the model of Georgian cultural policy did not create the prerequisites/guarantees for greater openness of governmental structures and the relevance of their decisions.

The quality of the information transparency and e-governance (the e-accessibility and technical efficiency) of the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection of Georgia in 2016-2017 was evaluated positively and was named one of the best among Georgian public institutions.

The Culture Strategy 2025, approved in 2016, has established the research-based governance that contributes to the development of management by expert methods.

The main problems and challenges that were identified during the development of the Culture Strategy 2025:

  • Information deficit on the role of culture and its economic potential;
  • Education programs flaws - culture and creativity are inadequately reflected in the education stages;
  • Culture is not equally available to all members of the community. Cultural diversity is not adequately protected and developed;
  • Culture and creativity are not integrated into the policies of other fields and there is no great awareness of its contribution;
  • There are no relevant social guarantees for cultural workers and their remuneration is low;
  • Cultural infrastructure and its material-technical base are underdeveloped;
  • Budgetary funding of culture is poor and alternative sources of funding are not developed;
  • Cultural governance at central or municipal levels are to be improved;
  • Surveys and statistical data are scarce;
  • The legislative base and mechanisms for promoting integration into the international space of culture are to be improved

Source: Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection

These challenges have shown the need for intensive use of local and international expert experiences. Consequently, the strategic area “Improvement of Cultural Governance” of the Culture Strategy 2025``, implies active implementation research, including internationally.

Within the framework of the Eastern Partnership’s program “Culture and Creativity”, research was conducted and recommendations were developed:

  • Development of Performing Art Sector (Theater) in Georgia
  • Development of Creative Industries in Georgia
  • UNESCO’s Indicators for Development – Georgia’s Report.

One of the priorities of the Strategy was to create a new model of culture financing. In 2016, the Ministry of Culture and Monument Protection formulated the idea of a ​​financial sustainability package, which includes the following:

  • Exemption of real assets used in the creative, artistic and scientific research activities (theater, center, museum, etc.) from property tax;
  • Exemption of the activities implemented in the cultural field under the state order from the value added tax;
  • Exemption of royalties, cash and other awards paid by the state from income tax;
  • Charity Law and voluntary 1% initiative;
  • Drafting the law on state pensions, which means the possibility of retaining pensions for persons employed in artistic organizations;
  • Transfering a part of lotteries´ revenues to the cultural sphere.

This package was however not realized, as of January 2018.

Chapter published: 13-02-2019

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