Memo July 2001


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

Messages exchanged in these weeks often include references to hot weather. So I need not do so. Enjoy your well-deserved vacations.

OSI information sector surveys
The surveys, conducted by the Open Society Institute each year since 1996, are a unique source of information on the book sector in the new democracies. Data were collected with an active cooperation of Soros Foundations in these countries. An agreement has been made, that from this year on BO will administer the survey, process and evaluate the findings.

Book distribution
Some of these findings are already on our site. See e.g. the one on book distribution.

At first glance, the differences in the supply with bookshops are not very great. In east-central Europe an average bookshop serves 12 thousand people; in eastern Europe (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova) 30 thousand, less than in the Balkans, where the same ratio is 43 thousand inhabitants per bookshop.

On the other hand, sales figures show more striking differences. 2/3 of books are reportedly sold in bookshops in east-central Europe, against 1/8 in the east, where about half of books are bought at side-walk desks and kiosks.

The sitemeter that you find on our site is rather imperfect. If we could exclude our own technical visits connected to maintenance, we would gain more information on real visitors. Does anyone know of an alternative counter - still free of charge?

During recent weeks 30% of visits could be identified by country (beside Hungary). Here is their list: 

Germany 6%

Korea 3%

Israel, Italy 2%

Lebanon, Portugal, Spain, Denmark, UK, Uruguay, Canada, Belgium, Ireland 1%

And from our region: Croatia 2%, Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania, Ukraine, Czechia, Bulgaria 1%.

Yes, every now and then, but no harm so far. Yet more and more suspicious messages come like "How are you? I need your advice about this file." These we are afraid to open. If you really ask for BO advice, be aware of our cautiousness and clearly identify your message.

Cultural budgets in Hungary
In the last memo I referred to our project on the cultural budgets of the Hungarian government. In it you read that the share of cultural expenditure grew from 0,96 % in 1997 and 1,71 % in 2001. A few days later the statistical authorities announced that the ratio of public spending on culture has been declining in the same period with regard to the GDP. Government and opposition immediately started to discuss this news with gusto, although none of the statements on either side has been without a number of errors. Summer holidays of senior statisticians have prevented BO to find out, what exactly they meant by "public spending on culture". Nice puzzle.

Anyway, what is certain, is that the central budget used to redistribute over 35% of the GDP before 1995, more recently it has remained below 30%. Consequently, even an increasing cultural component can keep pace with the GDP with difficulty only. Still, the government's cultural spending has grown from 0,29% (1997) to 0,50% (2001) of the Hungarian GDP. Note, however, that the bulk of the growth is capital investment, including reconstruction of built heritage.

A must or a muse?
It is too late if you encounter this weird question for the first time. The list is closed. The organisers are (proud? sorry?) to inform that no more registrations are accepted for this conference, to be held on arts education in September in Rotterdam.

The web site of the event reveals a few names among the contributors, who represent our region: Andrea from Budapest, Corina from Dijon (Bucharest), Dalia from Vilnius, and Vesna from Ljubljana. 

Global cultural pact
The issue is important. How to reconcile free world trade and cultural diversity. A few weeks ago participants were still being recruited for the second (and rather expensive) conference of the International Network for Cultural Diversity, engined by Canada. Time: September 21-23. Place: Switzerland, Luzern - as we know it, Lucerne in the conference documents. The list of 36 speakers contained one from our region at that time: Nina from Culturelink, Croatia.
You may be more able than me if you seek actual news: both and kept their secrets from me. They displayed lots of visual design knacks instead, at the expense of my time (and telephone bill), a frequent source of annoyance.

Volunteering in the arts
Still too early for names of contributors to this year's Circle round table conference, to be held in Newcastle between 2-4 November. Check the Circle site by the time you return from the sea (or lake, or hills...). The subject is linked to the topic of the year, as selected by the UN: volunteering.

Cultural centres
Speaking of volunteering reminds me that we are still missing volunteers to (co-) finance the planned comparative BO project on cultural centres (houses, spaces, you name it) in selected European countries.

Nevertheless, a favourable development is that the Institutul Intercultural Timisoara has volunteered to participate in the project. Others might come to the same decision taking a closer look at the project outline

EU enlargement conference
The preliminary programme can now be read on our web site. No names still, although the draft list is getting momentum. 28 weeks are left to the opening on 14th February (Thursday) and the organisers may be influenced still, both on contents and actors.

The Hungarian National Commission has made a general pledge to take charge of one day's translation costs. This serves the comfort of local participants, as the working language of the conference is English: reflecting the rich diversity of the mother tongues of the speakers, colourfully embellished or distorted by those substrata, but still English.