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Govt aims to end Pompeii's woes with director general

02/08/2013

Decree to boost cultural sector passes Italian cabinet

Govt aims to end Pompeii's woes with director general

(by Kate Carlisle)Rome, August 2 - A new director general for the archeological site of Pompeii and the area surrounding it is part of a decree approved in Italy's cabinet on Friday to boost the country's cultural sector. "Project Pompeii is a project coordinating initiatives for the archaeological site. It will be overseen by a director general to ensure compliance with the commitments regarding Pompeii, who will also have special superintendence over Herculaneum and Stabia," Italian Culture Minister Massimo Bray said. "Pompeii will become an example of transparency and a positive example of the south," Bray said. The site has been plagued by accusations of mismanagement and neglect for decades. Falls of structures over the past two years has caused growing concern about Italy's ability to protect the 2,000-year-old treasure from further degradation and the impact of the local mafia, the Camorra. In June, UNESCO asked Italy to apply a series of measures or face having one of its most famous tourist destinations removed from the elite World Heritage roster. However, it withdrew its threat after the country and its cultural ministry showed determination to stick by its plans to restore and maintain the archeological site properly. Premier Enrico Letta said that the decree will give "ample power" to the director and foresees the "enhancement of Pompeii. "It is our responsibility to make the site available for the world," Letta said. The director will be the "sole director" of the new organization Project Pompeii, and will have the task of defining schedules for works, while also being allowed to receive and allocate donations. The director will be supported by a maximum staff of 20 technicians, as well as five experts in law, economics, architecture, urban planning and infrastructure. Another project, the Great Pompeii Project, hashes out plans for the revamping and preservation of the site was announced in April. Key points listed in the Great Pompeii Project are to "secure the site's damaged areas and to ensure that this is done using capable, honest businesses, not organized crime". In March, a European Union Commission approved an injection of 105 million euros in restoration funds for Pompeii's ailing monuments, to be combined with matching money from Italy. At least 50 million euros of the money earmarked by the EU for restoration will be allocated by the end of the year while a parallel project of private investors and businesses to develop areas surrounding the archeological site is also planned. Friday's decree also includes measures worth more than 180 million euros in tax credits and new funding across a range of activities from encouraging street art, to saving foundering operas and symphonies to revamping key museums to helping the cinema sector. In addition to measures for the archeological site of Pompeii and the area surrounding it, the ''Cultural Value'' decree designates 90 million euros of tax credits to the movie industry and another five million in tax credits to promote young music composers and performers. Five hundred university graduates under the age of 35 will be hired for a year to digitalize and catalogue the cultural assets of the country. The first 100 hires will be drawn from southern Italian regions of Puglia, Campania, Calabria and Sicily. Eight million euros will be allocated to the revamping the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and four million granted to the Holocaust Museum of Ferrara. Lyric opera and symphony foundations will be able to access a special 75 million euro fund, to be administered by a government appointed commissioner. "We have assessed that it is necessary to have a comprehensive measure for lyric-symphonic foundations" cornered into difficulty, Letta said. "The lyric foundations should not continually find themselves with water up to their necks, and thus the decree saves the foundations and gives them essential prospects of stability," Letta added. However access to the new lyric-symphonic funds requires balancing budgets, coming up with a relaunch plan, terminating all supplementary contracts, and firing up to 50% of technical and administrative personnel. The Culture Ministry has guaranteed jobs for a large portion of prospective layoffs in the territorial offices of the state-owned cultural asset caretaking company Ales SpA. The decree also foresees allowing artists under age 35 to create installations and new forms of expression in certain state-owned spaces on a six-month rotating basis, similar to Paris's "59 Rivoli". The decree also gives the Culture Ministry (MiBAC) more control over its own funds to better manage museums, which it runs. Moreover, the decree allows the ministry to keep all revenues earned through ticket sales and merchandising, reversing of government finance law from 2008 that reduced the ministry's take to 10-15%.