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 is 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 30 years (1990 to 2020), 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 the 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 leveling 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).
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 programme 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 can 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 ( 2016)
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 (theatres, centres, museum, etc.) from property tax;
- Exemption of the activities implemented in the cultural field under the state order from 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;
- Transferring a part of lottery revenues to the cultural sphere.
- As of December 2021, this package has not been, however, realized.
- The openness of public cultural policy does not always meet European standards;
- The decision-making system and indicators are not always clear (especially since 2021);
- 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 decentralization 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 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 skeptical about this idea.