Budget : François Hollande’s Big Lie

Who said last 19 January : "I promise that the cultural budget will be entirely protected during the next presidential term." ? The President of the French Republic, elected a few weeks later, François Hollande. Why did the media - and we were among the first - rush to point out the lies spoken by Nicolas Sarkozy before and during his five years in office, when today this simple and reasonable promise made by the current president seems to have been forgotten by all ?

In fact, if we are to believe all the signs emanating from the French Ministry of Culture and the public establishments, the cultural budget, notably that concerning heritage and museums, will undergo drastic cuts next year, comparable only to those inflicted by the ministry of Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres (2004-2007).
According to Vincent Noce of Libération, in one of the most complete and apparently best informed articles published on this question, there will be a 15% decrease for historical monuments when in fact at least 400 million euros a year are needed. This is a drop in the bucket for the state budget but a bare minimum to maintain national heritage, when in 2010, despite Nicolas Sarkozy’s promises, the amount was only 347 million (still according to Noce) ; such a reduction would mean lowering the figure to only 300 million.

Major museums such as the Louvre or Orsay, already strongly affected by the preceding government, will see their funding slashed further ( -5% per year for three years, at least, according to Libération). Worse still, their working capital, the savings put aside over the past few years, will be shamelessly tapped leaving only a 30-day advance.
For the Louvre, this would represent no less than 30 million euros. True, we might wonder about this poor management, especially since the museum itself admits it is missing 10 million to finish paying off the recently inaugurated project in the Département des Arts Islamiques, and is also forced to stand by and watch several national treasures leave French soil. But punishing the management at the Louvre by claiming that it is not "supposed to sit on a pile of gold [1]" is in fact creating a severe handicap for national heritage at a time when new tax measures are also aimed at discouraging museum donors, generally seen as being "rich" (see article).

We cannot really know the French Minister of Culture’s role in this matter. She made some wise decisions, in our opinion, by stopping or suspending certain projects which were not high priority (see article). But this should, precisely, avoid these disastrous budget cuts, not add to them.
"I promise that the cultural budget will be entirely protected during my presidential term". Nicolas Sarkozy had at least kept his promise. François Hollande committed himself to doing the same ; he still has a few days left to show he will honor his word.

Version française

Didier Rykner, mercredi 19 septembre 2012


[1] We should say, but take no pleasure in doing so, that our prediction in which we stated that the money gained thanks to the Louvre Abou-Dhabi would be directly pocketed by the government, might just turn out to be true.

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