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Research 28 Jun 11

Rewarding the best

The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina are facing growing calls to clarify their strategy for culture amid deepening cuts in the budget for the sector. Across the country, state institutions and the independent sector are demanding that funds for culture be distributed with greater transparency, and to the worthiest recipients. Pročitajte članak na bosanskom / hrvatskom / srpskom jeziku

Reported by: Naida Balic, Zvjezdan Zivkovic and Duska Jurisic from Sarajevo;
Nejra Aganovic from Mostar, Tuzla and Travnik; and Drazen Remikovic from Banja Luka

Party affiliation, ethnic background, friendship – the criteria for reward

Ministries in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republic of Srpska say they can explain the rules by which money for cultural projects is allocated from the budget. The rules apply to funds given out by cantons as well.

However, cultural workers – from larger towns and smaller municipalities, public institutions and the exhausted independent sector – agree almost unanimously that artistic quality and managerial success do not play a major role in securing funds.

They say rewards are made on the basis of ethnic background, party affiliation, friendship and solidarity.

In the Republic of Srpska, cultural workers bitterly concluded that although the criteria for funding are clear, there is barely any money left to distribute.

Novica Bogdanovic, art director of the independent DIS Teatar from Banja Luka, emphasised criteria by the Government and city authorities so far have been transparent and understandable.

“The distribution is not a problem. The problem is the amount of money that is being distributed,” says Bogdanovic. “There may be some political scheming in the distribution process, but, to be honest, I haven’t encountered it so far.”

Darko Saracevic, the director of the non-government organisation AlterArt from Travnik, says that the criteria for the distribution of funds are not specific enough.

Culture forms part of the municipality’s remit in Travnik, but its strategy was “drafted in such a vague manner that it resulted in an even more vague action plan”, says Saracevic. He adds that cultural centres justify the money they have spent in “very simple annual reports that often contained false data”.

His organisation got 1,000 marks (€511) last year, although it had asked for 5,000 (€2,550).

“When you compare the amounts received by other projects approved by the municipality, you see that everyone was given either 1,500 or 1,000 marks (€770 or €510).

Sve je transparentno

"The decision as to who gets funds and how is made by expert commissions and boards of directors of foundations with the Ministry. The only thing I can do is appoint new members to the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Cinematography soon, because the mandate of the current board is about to expire. Therefore, the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Cinematography will, along with the expert commissions, decide who gets the money from the budget. I will have nothing to do with it. This is a similar practice with other foundations. Also, a more transparent criteria would be synchronised with the Association of Film Workers. There have naturally been general criteria for a long time, and every expert commission is forming criteria for certain artistic fields and distributing the money according to these. I don't see what is not transparent here. Even open competitions have clear guidelines for applying for funds."

Salmir Kaplan
Minister of Culture and Sport of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina

“The conclusion is that projects are not assessed for their quality but in an offhand manner, and in order to avoid offending anyone,” says Saracevic.

“At the annual level, several associations that were described as being of ‘public significance’ got much more money than others,” he adds. “It is impossible to find any written criteria by which an association acquires or justifies that description.”

A similar assessment comes from the director of the Mostar Center for Drama Education, Sead Djulic:

“By following the distribution of funds and the projects which are being financed, we have established that the nationality of the applicant is very important if you are writing from Mostar, for example,” he says.

“Everything is shrouded in a veil of secrecy. The criteria [for funding] are mostly unknown, even if they exist.”

“The decisions are being made late into the year, which in a way disqualifies the project from the start. The competence of certain commission members who make the decisions is often questionable. Party affiliations and blood ties are the most important criteria,” says Djulic.

The National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo is one of the seven institutions that are considered to be of national significance, but that have no founder of their own which can guarantee their income.

The museum’s director, Adnan Busuladzic, believes that while the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not have enough money, the little they do have “should be distributed in a slightly different manner”.

He believes that politics is a lesser problem than other forms of bias among decision makers.

“For example, we had a minister of culture who is an actor by profession and who was, with all due respect to his positive achievements, by default more inclined towards his own trade than other artistic branches.”

The Art Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina is in the same group of institutions as the museum, in that it does not have a founder who is obliged to protect its funding. The gallery’s curator, Ivana Udovicic, says there are no criteria for funding in the field of art.

"If you go to any ministry, they will tell you everything is transparent and that it can be checked. But the criteria are an altogether different matter. Let me put it this way – the theatre scene was crying at the departure of their minister [who was an actor by profession], and opera couldn't wait for the arrival of their man."

Ivana Udovičić
Curator of the Art Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina

“If you go to any ministry, they will tell you everything is transparent and that it can be checked,” she says. “But the criteria are an altogether different matter.

“Let me put it this way – the theatre scene was crying at the departure of their minister [who was an actor by profession], and opera couldn’t wait for the arrival of their man.”

Ivica Saric, the Minister for Culture and Sport of the Sarajevo canton, is also a principal opera soloist of the National Theatre of Sarajevo. He argues that the criticism of the criteria has not come from experts, and cautions against judging a project’s merits by its popularity.

“It is difficult to talk about any criteria in the absence of any kind of expert criticism,” Saric says.

“The number of people who visit shows is not exactly tangible proof of anything. You can have a populist show with questionable values and you can have a classical show with an educational role which does not have such a good turnout.

“I heard that a singer called Aca recently performed at Skenderija, that he had a big crowd, that no one had seen so many young people gathered in recent memory. But this does not mean it was a successful concert or that he had a successful manager.”

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