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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
What are the ministers' priorities?
While the budgets for culture are being reduced every year, the cantonal ministers for culture and sport in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the ministry of education and culture in the Republic and Srpska are primarily concerned with preserving the public institutions that they founded.
About 15 million marks (€7.7 million) is being set aside for the work of cantonal public institutions, which are expected to earn about three million (€1.5 million) by themselves.
Their performance is rated highly by the Minister of Culture and Sport of the Sarajevo Canton, Ivica Saric.
“In a situation where culture is fighting against a lack of funds and staff,” he says, their work has won good reviews and awards and represents an “outstanding achievement”.
The planned distribution of Federal Ministry of Culture and Sport (millions of KM) in 2011
"We must have the money for salaries and material expenses. For content there is as much money as we can find in the budget."
"If they think I will be Minister Solomon and that I will carry out absolute justice on this Earth, I can immediately tell them I won't be able do that. With the best intentions towards all fields of culture and art in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I won't be able to meet the expectations of making everyone completely happy."
"Public institutions have very clear indicators of their work and their success. Meanwhile with independent productions, it is not always possible to see the indicators of success clearly."
Saric adds that all cultural institutions suffer from a shortage of funds, and says it is impossible to create a system that works to everyone’s satisfaction.
Saric also says he does not see a problem with the sums awarded for independent productions, which amount to around three million marks (€1.5 million) this year.
He maintains that public cultural institutions simply cannot be compared with the independent sector.
“Public institutions have very clear indicators of their work and their success,” says Saric. “Meanwhile with independent productions, it is not always possible to see the indicators of success clearly.”
The majority of cultural workers and artists from independent associations in the Federation still hope for money from the budget of the federal Ministry of Culture and Sport. The ministry has not founded any public cultural institution, but it allocates money for a variety of cultural productions and events.
The Minister of Culture and Sport in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Salmir Kaplan, cautions against high expectations.
“If they think I will be Minister Solomon and that I will carry out absolute justice on this Earth, I can immediately tell them I won’t be able do that.”
“With the best intentions towards all fields of culture and art in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, I won’t be able to make everyone completely happy.
“Film is the most expensive art form, and it our best representative in the world. Our films have won the Oscar and the Golden Bear. There is also the Sarajevo Film Festival, the best and biggest of its kind in the region, recognised in Europe and the world.
“All these successes are important for the affirmation of our state, which is why they deserve more financial support from the federal Ministry of Culture,” he says.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Education and Culture in the Republic of Srpska says it prioritises providing salaries for employees and paying for the expenses of public institutions. It says the funds left for cultural production are “insufficient”.
“We must have the money for salaries and material expenses,” says Irena Soldat-Vujanovic, the assistant to the Minister of Culture of Republic of Srpska. “For content there is as much money as we can find in the budget.”
She says she is aware that these funds are not sufficient for culture. However, she says, the ministry is exceptionally satisfied with the results achieved by public cultural institutions.
“The minister tried not to cut the budget for programmes but there are priorities. You must give salaries to people.
“I don’t expect the institutions to deliver spectacular results. The people who run them cannot be blamed if they don’t achieve anything, bearing in mind the size of their annual budget,” she says.
Living in the Stone Age
The Federation’s ministry of culture and sport has 10 million marks (€5.1 million) at its disposal.
It has already allocated four million marks (€2 million) from this amount for the repair and reconstruction of religious facilities.
The grant of such a large sum of money – nearly half the ministry’s budget – for religious facilities is unprecedented. It stems from a commitment made by the previous government to religious leaders, who also retain great influence with the current administration.
In an interview in April this year, the Federation’s Minister for Culture and Sport, Salmir Kaplan, told the San daily that the money had been allocated for political reasons.
“The previous government and former minister introduced this new item, but I drafted the amendments to reduce them in order to transfer a significant part of the money to sport, culture and repair of cultural and historical heritage,” he was quoted as saying.
“However, an unpleasant political moment emerged, so we decided this year to spend that much money on repair and reconstruction of religious facilities, so that no one from those communities would have any objections.”
Commenting on this decision, director Jasmila Zbanic says the distribution of funds is a telling indicator of a country’s cultural policy.
“France is currently discussing the draft of cultural policy till the year 2030. One of the things it deals with is the digitalisation of culture through production, communication, archives,” she says.
“It is different over here, of course. We are still living in the Stone Age, almost literally. I refer to the construction of religious facilities, for which this money was intended.”