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N Touch
Thursday 18 January 2018
Editorial

Don’t gamble with culture

The issue of to what use the funds of the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB) are put should be a matter of law and policy, never a matter left to the discretion of administrative actors or the Executive.

The issue of whether the withholding of NLCB funding is tied to political discrimination is a fraught but serious one in which claims and counter-claims have been made.

While these fast-changing matters continue to play out, what is currently clear is that the Executive should never be placed in a position where it is vulnerable to an allegation that it has diverted funds arbitrarily.

There should be a better system in place to deal with requests for funding.

That system should be transparent, have clear criteria and should be managed by independent actors who are in a position to act judiciously when considering each funding request.

At all stages it should be clear why funding is being granted; when it will be disbursed and for what quantum.

Furthermore, organisations should not have to wait until the last minute to know the outcome of their applications.

If an event is held on an annual basis, the rules should be such that deliberation takes place well in advance and changes are implemented with an appropriate degree of notice. The current framework is too confusing. That is a big contributor to the bacchanal. The NLCB is governed by the National Lotteries Act.

That law states the balance of the national lotteries account is to be paid into the Consolidated Fund, while the instant lottery surplus is to be diverted to the Sport and Culture Fund, established under the Sport and Culture Fund Act. It is difficult to say how these legal provisions have been interpreted when it comes to the full range of the NLCB’s revenues. It is also difficult to tell whether the Sport and Culture Fund is as active as it should be.

The Sport and Culture Fund Act was passed by Parliament to support, “activities and practices that are characteristic of the nation as a whole or any component group thereof, arising out of its customs, heritage, lifestyle, beliefs and values.” Yet, few have ever heard of this fund.

The malaise is such that the Government’s TTconnect website lists outdated information in relation to its board.

The value of culture is not monetary. We should be supporting all of our cultural activities. At the same time, our culture can be leveraged to generate income and support tourism. Instead of gambling with the future of the cultural sector, the State needs to get serious. It should revamp the arrangements surrounding the NLCB.

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