No general law exists in Italy dealing with the allocation of government funds to the cultural field as a whole. At the state level, criteria for the allocation of funds and in some cases even their precise amount, have been established through the years by several sector specific laws, and only in recent times in some more comprehensive laws (see further…).
On the other hand, around the turn of the century, legislation aimed at coping with the shortage of funding was passed, to allow the allocation to the cultural field of additional public money drawn from other sources. Most important are:
- Article 3 of the Budget Law 662/1996, providing for a portion of the national lottery revenue to be dedicated to the safeguard and restoration of cultural goods; and
- Article 60 of the Budget Law 289/2002, establishing that 3% of public capital expenditure for “strategic infrastructure”should be assigned to the financing of cultural goods and activities.
1. Funding culture through lottery money
While looking for alternative, additional funding sources to face the huge burden related to the protection of Italy’s exceptionally relevant and widespread heritage, it was up to the then Minister Walter Veltroni to decide that part of the related costs would be provided from revenues generated through the national lottery.
Law 662/1996 provided for a share of the profits from the newly introduced Wednesday national lottery draw – added to the regular Saturday draw – to be given to the cultural sector. This lottery share (for which a yearly cap of 155 million EUR was then set) “is allocated to the Ministry for Heritage and Cultural Activities for the restoration and preservation of cultural, archaeological, artistic, and archival and library goods”. Lottery funds – allocated in advance, and, unlike statutory funds, based on triennial plans – have undoubtedly contributed to a great improvement in the planning capacity of the Ministry.
The law was first applied in 1998. At the end of the second triennial plan in 2003, more than 300 major and minor restoration projects concerning monuments, museums, archaeological parks, libraries, etc., around the country were supported via the Lottery Law. However, due to heavy cuts in state funding for cinema and the performing arts, the Law Governing the Lottery was amended in 2003 to include opera houses, festivals and national film companies among the possible recipients of such funds.
Furthermore, since 2007, the yearly allocation of 155 million EUR of lottery money to the cultural sector has been progressively and substantially downsized: it was halved to 79 million EUR between 2007 and 2009, heavily reduced to 48 million EUR between 2011 and 2012, and then halved again to as little as 23 million EUR for 2014.
2. Funding culture through a percentage of capital investment in infrastructure
A new company, ARCUS/Societa‘ per lo sviluppo dell‘Arte, della Cultura e dello Spettacolo, was established under Law 291/2003,to manage funds collected under the 3% of “capital expenditure for strategic infrastructure rule”, which are additional to the ordinary budget administered by the Ministry for Heritage. According to Law 291, the company’s mission is “the promotion, through technical, financial and managerial support, of projects and actions aiming at the restoration of cultural assets and at the promotion of activities in the field of culture and the performing arts”. The shareholder of the company’s capital – funded by 8 million EUR in 2004 – is MiBACT, and the company’s board is entirely composed of national government appointees.
The funds have been allocated through the years to different kinds of cultural activities: from the restoration of Villa Gregoriana in Tivoli to satellite monitoring of archaeological goods, to the Orchestra Toscanini in Parma, etc. Nevertheless, the lack of transparency in the way ARCUS was managed – sometimes defined as a sort of “privatisation of public funds” – has been so controversial, that even the Court of Accounts deplored “the excess of discretionary power and the lack of planning, transparency and sound procedures still characterising the company’s management”.
The long delayed revision of the ARCUS structure came about initially with Decree 182/2008. Accordingly, the amount of funding stemming from the 3% of the infrastructures to be transferred to ARCUS had to be jointly established by the Ministry for the Economy and the Ministry for Infrastructures, whereas it was up to the Ministry for Heritage to draft a plan for the breakdown of the available financial resources (70% of which was to be earmarked for the heritage, 30% for the performing arts and cultural activities). Notwithstanding the agency’s persistent use of discretionary powers – again questioned by the Court of Accounts – ARCUS, endowed with 100 million EUR for the years 2011-2013, has continued to operate up to 2015, on the restoration of monuments, cathedrals, archaeological sites, the refurbishing of museums, the support of theatre and music festivals as well as of Cinecitta-Luce.
Just recently – for rationalisation and to make savings, and following the destiny of many other public companies – ARCUS was abolished by the Financial Stability Law 208/2016, by incorporating it in ALES/Arte, Lavoro e Servizi: the other “in house” company created by the MiBACT in 1997 as a tool for carrying out more efficiently its manifold investments and services.