As if Romanian culture and those that strive to preserve it haven't had their fair share of battles and insults over recent years, culture is now about to be further taxed. The draft law (to replace Law no. 35/1994), signed by 84 trans-party MPs, has caused massive outcry among Romanian intellectuals, and public opinion is equally revolted.
This new tax, says Nine O'Clock, is to be applied to any cultural 'product' in Romania, from books, theatre and films to exhibitions and concerts, and the income it makes will enrich 'creators’ unions and organisations.' It will be smacked on every book before it arrives on the shelves as if it were a packet of cigarettes or a bottle of plonk. The Romanian Editors' Federation (FER), the Association of Show Producers and Organisers (APOSR) and the Union of Romanian Phonogram Producers (UPFR) are challenging it for its negative impact on economic and cultural development. Quite right too. It is scandalous.
The current law (in situ since 1994) is set at 2% of the book value whereas the draft law puts the culture stamp for books at a fixed 1 leu (about 0.22 euros) for each copy, more than the 2% in many cases. For other literary categories (cinema, theatre, music, architecture, Beaux Arts), the new values vary from 2-5% of the price of a ticket (show, concert or exhibition) and between 1-2% of the price of copies of recordings or reproductions (audio-visual, cinema, theatre, music, etc).
Apparently, the whole point is to protect and preserve cultural patrimony, encourage contemporary creativity and promote values in various cultural fields. Yes, sure. But when a victim of corruption, indifference and neglect can barely walk as it is, why not steal its walking stick and bash it round the head with a new tax, alienating it yet further still. What a brilliant idea.
(Image source) Editors, producers and cultural product importers along with show/concert organisers and administrators must obtain the new culture stamps and bung them on the products concerned. They must also send a bi-annual report before 25th July and 25th January every year. Can you imagine the fun that'll be.
The creators' unions and associations wishing to benefit from the funds drummed up must register an official demand with the Minister of Culture. Ha! And they say this is a move to limit corruption in the world of culture. Promoted by Nicolae Manolescu (president of the USR Writer's union), Ion Caramitru (president of UNITER) and Adrian Iorgulescu (president of the Musicians' Union - the guy who wanted to tax the music taxi drivers play in their cars, as he considered taxis to be public spaces... One can guffaw but he was perfectly serious) - all of them ex-ministers, or, like Manolescu, UNESCO ambassador, that's highly unlikely. The sums from the tax can only be used for means conforming to objectives defined by the aforementioned creators' unions and organisations and are untaxable. Really, the greed leaves you speechless.
Anyone trying to circumnavigate this law will have a nice fine on their hands somewhere in the realms of 5,000 to 25,000 lei (1,115 to 5,580 euros).
Draft law 583/2014 was quietly approved under wraps (no surprise there) by the Senate on 8th December 2014, while the final decision rests in the hands of the Chamber of Deputies, Parliament's lower house. The bill has currently come to a halt in the cultural commitee after several cultural associations said they had never been consulted and were therefore contesting such a measure. During the debate, the head of the cultural commitee in the Chamber of Deputies, Gigel Stirbu (another name you'll remember, see HERE - what hope is there for Romanian culture with people like this making decisions on its future?), said MPs agreed to keep the culture tax at the previous 2% level.
"Over the past several years Romania has faced a market decline for books and music. Such legislation would worsen the situation that is currently far from normal. Introducing such a 'culture tax' would directly affect the retail price of cultural products and services (books, CDs, DVDs or concert tickets) which will inevitably alienate a large category of potential readers/listeners/spectators against a backdrop in which the public’s access to culture in Romania is already amongst the lowest in the European Union," FER representatives said, reported by Mediafax.
According to the FER, the low and medium income families will be the most affected by this taxation which, in their opinion, will increase book prices by 7-10% and such a supplementary tax, they warned, would be unique for an EU member state, putting Romania at risk of a procedure of infringement from the European Commission. It would appear that Manolescu, Caramitru and Iorgulescu aren't bothered by such nit-picking detail.
The FER have therefore asked that draft law 583/2014 be annulled, since it was established without consideration for commitments taken by Romania at EU level in terms of the 'intelligent regulation' strategy, where member states are advised that any new draft law be accompanied by arguments in favour of timeliness and an impact assessment to evaluate costs for economic operators.
(Photo source) A recent head to head (Realitatea) on the subject between Gabriel Liiceanu and Nicolae Manolescu ended with the head of Humanitas (Liiceanu) claiming uncontestable victory. Manolescu was publically pulverised when accused of wanting to take the place of the ANAF and pocket as much as he could for the USR in illegal taxation.
"De la 'daţi un leu pentru Atheneu' s-a ajuns la 'Vă iau un leu pentru USR-u,'” said the director of Humanitas. Yes. Well said, Mr Liiceanu.
Please sign THIS petition against the rise in book prices as a result of this new legislation. In a country where people have been distanced from their history, patrimony and collective memory via acts of disinformation, corruption, demolition and destruction, allowing culture to become even more inaccessible is nothing short of criminal. Ponta's recent declaration to earmark 2% of the country's lottery earnings for cultural activities supervised by the MC is not going to cut the corn. Robbing Peter to pay Paul? Absurd. Keep your lottery earnings and drop the draft law!!!
Read more in Romanian at Istorioare Bucurestene