Appreciate the art and increase the budget to 1 billion euros

Children in Boijmans Van Beuningen’s public art depository, Rotterdam.Statue Arie Kievit

Would you like to earn the same amount today as you did ten years ago? None? It happens in the cultural sector. And that must change. This weekend, the annual Amsterdam Uitmarkt will usher in the new cultural season. For many museums and venues, there is still little cause for rejoicing. Many predict an uncertain future.

About the author

Wim Pijbes is director of the Droom en Daad philanthropic foundation and former director of the Rijksmuseum.

It is also important to countless individual artists, musicians, writers and other creators in our country. Visitors still fail or decide to buy a ticket at the last minute. Vermeer, Stromae or any other blockbuster can count on a massive influx, but the sector will have to work hard this season for the other cultural offerings.

And that is why the cultural sector, together with politicians, will consider the future in the Paradise debate on Sunday. How to react to the next corona wave, energy costs, inflation and the war on the continent? Good questions, because in recent years the sector has been more closed than open and, like elsewhere, has struggled with price increases and a lack of staff.


What is not on the agenda on Sunday, but extremely urgent, is to quickly create clarity about the upcoming Cultural Plan period 2025-2028 – in addition to a thorough repair of years of delayed maintenance of the general cultural budget. Prince’s Day is the perfect time for this.

Because what is happening? The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science distributes the state grants every four years following advice from the Cultural Council. Municipalities and provinces follow this system, where various institutions receive a subsidy from the lower governments linked to it. The process for submitting plans and the necessary advice is fixed, as is the timeline for assessment and award. For many, this procedure starts at the end of this year with the collection of data, agreements for the future, multi-year plans, etc.


For example, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science distributes 413 million euros annually in the current Cultural Plan, which runs until the end of 2024. In addition, national museums receive 217 million euros in grants through the so-called inheritance law, bringing the total amount up to 630 million euros.

In Minister Bussemaker’s previous Culture Plan (2017-2020), in addition to the contributions to the national museums, 380 million euros could be used annually for institutions and cultural funds. Her predecessor Halbe Zijlstra, after drastic cuts of 200 million euros, was left with 326 million annually for the period 2013-2016.

In the years 2009-2012, 530 million euros could be distributed (at that time including the national museums). If you go back even further, you will see that under State Secretary Medy van der Laan (2003-2006) the total national cultural budget amounted to 655 million euros, and that Rick van der Ploeg, State Secretary between 1998 and 2002, was able to allocate at least 657 million euros annually. In 2002, public spending on culture even amounted to 710 million euros.

hollowed out

Finkvarne will undoubtedly say that a year this or that was part of it or not, the fact is that the freely available budget for institutions have been structurally eroded in two decades. The growth in fixed costs (wage increases, inflation, rent, energy costs, insurance premiums, pension costs, regulatory burden) was stronger than the increase in variable income. Fixed income (subsidy) is no longer sufficient for the increased fixed costs; variable income is then used to cover fixed costs. It goes wrong once.

Fortunately, during the corona crisis, the previous cabinet made funds available for ‘recovery, renewal and growth’, but these 170 million for the coming years are fully earmarked to absorb the consequences of corona, but also to compensate earthquake damage to national monuments in Groningen.. Useful and necessary, but the sector does little about it.

To invest

There is investment money. Less than two years ago, the government announced on Budget Day that ‘(…) future generations should be able to live in a Netherlands with good care, good education, a livable environment and enough money to spend on their own. (…)’ The cabinet earmarked 20 billion euros for a national growth fund that will stimulate knowledge development, physical infrastructure, research, development and innovation. Little has come of it. Proposed infrastructure projects suddenly turn out to be plans for yesterday’s world. More asphalt is not the future. If you want to connect people better, you invest in culture.

One condition is that institutions and artists are duly honored. Cultural policy is by definition long-term policy, so anyone who says they want to stimulate knowledge development, research, development, innovation and connect people is investing in the creative and cultural sector.

Several of our artists, photographers, DJs, architects, choreographers, designers and musicians belong to the international top. We can be proud of that. The insult of Rem Koolhaas about his plans for the Binnenhof, the shameful words of the ministers during the corona press conferences or the unnecessarily long closing of Dutch museums unfortunately show that the politicians are not always understanding. Especially for a dynamic sector bursting with talent, which time and again proves to excel in what our country increasingly lacks: vision, vitality and confidence.


So let’s start appreciating it better. And then on Budget Day, structurally increase the current Cultural Plan for the years 2025-2028 (and beyond), which was completely disrupted and obsolete by corona. Do not leave the sector in the dark any longer, take another look at the budget at the beginning of this century. Add that to the current price level: 710 million euros plus a correction according to the CBS price index gives a little more than
1 billion euros.

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