Memo June 2001

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A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in June 2001

BO staff spent most of June with copying figures from official journals into our computers. The Hungarian cultural ministry commissioned us to do so. There is no regular monitoring of public cultural expenditure in the country, so it needs to be done in a retrospective way.

Cultural budgets in Hungary, 1991-2001
We looked back on the last ten years and here are a few interesting facts.

In the central budget of the country the share of cultural expenditure varies between 0,96 % (lowest point, 1997) and 1,71 % (victorious 2001).

This represents 12,9 $ and 25,1 $ per citizen, at current rates.

The value of the cultural budget in 1992, in terms of purchase power, was reached again in 2000 only, the years between were tapped by inflation.

For explanation:

  • non-cultural items were left out from the chapter of the cultural ministry, and cultural items have been included from all other chapters;
  • radio-television as well as art education is not included;
  • we collected figures from approved budgets: they represent plans, intentions while actual realisation may differ.

Besides the national budget, the data of Budapest and two selected cities (Pécs and Kaposvár) were observed.

Curiously, in Budapest the latest budget produced the lowest percentage: 4,27 % for culture in 2001, its amount being 16,6 % as compared to the central cultural budget. The peak was in 1993 with 7,92 %, which then equalled 26,2 % of the central sums. In this respect 1997 produced an even higher ratio: the Budapest cultural budget stood at 46,2 % of the meagre central cultural plans (although then only 6,34 % of the city's money was spent on culture).

Kaposvár shows a balanced picture, with a cultural share between 7,90 and 5,76 %. Incidentally, these stand for the last two years: many cultural investments had been accomplished for the Millenium, which had an aftermath in 2001. The remaining, previous years show an even sequence.

Pécs, a university town of 160 000 surprised us very much. Complaints on the financing of culture had not appeared to be louder than in other towns. Yet our figures show that from the 9,38 % in 1991, the proportion of culture went down to 4,81 - 4,94 in 2000-2001; meanwhile the actual purchase power fell to less than half! To put it differently, in 1991 it stood for $ 5,86 million and this year $ 3,31 million, and the dollar also lost some of its value over ten years. From yet another angle, in 1991 their budget stood at 4,57 % as against the central cultural funds, which ratio is now 1,30 % only.

With this undertaking we shall proceed in various directions. Some of the findings will be put on this site. Also we are curious if Kaposvár or Pécs is the typical case in Hungary, so we may select a couple of more places. The analysis will be extended to the structures of the budgets. But first, in July, we go to Pécs, for some field checking of those disastrous figures.

Compendium
BO is a comparative agency, so we shall look for foreign data with which to compare the above macro-statistical findings. Obviously, this is the first idea. The country profiles of the Compendium collection can be read one by one, but there is a possibility of horizontal switching, too. This means that one selects e.g. Chapter 6.2 on public budgets for culture, and - as the ads say - "with a click of the mouse" one can switch to the same chapter in the next country. It works fine.

However, the old difficulties remain. It is very hard to find facts and figures which really and surely match. For various reasons the first visit produced one such match only. When in 1997 Budapest reached 46,2 % of the central budget, the equivalent in Vienna was 33,3 %; rather high, too. For that comparison, radio-television and arts education had to be removed from the Austrian figure. Both offering some surprise: subsidy on public media represented about half, and art education about double of their equivalents in Hungary. Two more reasons to envy Austria. 

EU enlargement conference
Most of you have shared the experience as a draft conference programme is getting into shape. I wish we had received ideas like those in Dragan Klaic's e-mail of today earlier and in greater number! There is still room for ideas, both on themes and names. Still 32 weeks are left to the opening on 14th February (Thursday).