A The slowness, almost paralysis, of the Special Secretariat for Culture in the implementation of the procedures of the Culture Incentive Law (LIC) - former Rouanet Law -, even preventing the movement of funds already raised by approved projects, must have a tragic result for the cultural sector in Brazil. Within an extremely critical context due to the coronavirus pandemic, the paralysis of the federal government – added to its attacks on the artistic class and flirtations with censorship – is already directly impacting the lives of artists, cultural producers and institutions around the country.
Who makes the observation is the lawyer Cris Olivieri, specialist in market and cultural policies and director of the Olivieri Associados, a firm specialized in legal consultancy for culture and entertainment. “I have no doubt that many institutions will die for this. I belong to the generation when people talked about the engineer who 'turned into juice'. And now we will have the artist who 'turned into juice', the cultural producer who will 'become bread'”, says Olivieri. For her, the Secretariat's argument – currently headed by Mario Frias – that the slowdown in project analysis is due to pressure from the Federal Audit Court (TCU) may have a real basis, but does not justify the situation. “His role as secretary is to make the cultural policy work, that this mechanism is carried out. If he fails to do so, he will be held liable for omission.” The fact, according to her, is that nothing that is linked to a better formation of the human being, such as education, sport and culture, is a priority for this government.
Within such a troubled and threatening scenario, the lawyer celebrates the implementation of the Aldir Blanc Law - carried out based on a proposal from Congress - which, in addition to distributing R$ 3 billion to culture, used an innovative format for the country, in which the union transfers the funds to states and municipalities and these, in turn, transfer them to the people and projects contemplated. “This law leaves this memory that the closest managers are more agile, they know who needs support the most. Thus, this national system of culture was created, which has been discussed for years and now has its channels ready. So it is a winning action and the ideal would be that in the future we have a kind of 'eternal fund' Aldir Blanc to promote culture in the country.”
As possible paths for cultural agents, Olivieri points out the public notices and municipal and state incentive laws, some private notices and even philanthropy – which should decrease at a time when the basic food basket is something increasingly urgent. The lawyer also indicates the existence of international funds focused on culture, which should look more closely at Brazil in this critical context and which can be an alternative especially for institutions. And, even with the difficulties, Olivieri suggests that the federal law should not be given up: “It is necessary to continue pleading and trying to convince the government that culture is important. And if he doesn't understand the fun part, let's try to make him understand the social and economic part”, she says about a sector that represents 2,6% of the country's GDP and generates more than 1 million jobs. Read the full conversation below.
ARTE!✱ – As you yourself have warned, in recent times we have been following a paralysis in the cultural sector, especially due to a lack of action by the federal government. So I would like to start by asking what is happening and what are the main reasons that are causing this paralysis.
Cultural actions in Brazil have always been mostly funded by the federal tax incentive – the Culture Incentive Law (LIC), formerly the Rouanet Law. Within this, there is already an established process known to companies, producers and cultural institutions on how this funding works. And there is a whole construction of inclusion policies, programs, projects and projects made with this type of funding. What happened more radically from the end of December onwards was a delay, almost a stoppage, in the work of the Special Secretariat for Culture, not only in approving new projects - and the impact of this will be seen more at the end of the year, when these projects do not exist to fundraise -, but especially in not forwarding the projects they have already raised. In the past, it was a well-oiled procedure, which went through a technical evaluation and then entered the committee meetings for approval. But that didn't happen. So we have a large number of projects that have already raised funds, including many annual plans with activities that started in January, and that cannot access this money that was raised because the deadlines for approval, release of fundraising and transfer of funds are all run over. , all half stopped.
ARTE!✱ – The government argues that there is an imposition by the Federal Court of Auditors (TCU) to reduce the analysis of projects and also talks about the difficulties due to the lockdown. Would that justify this stoppage?
There is actually a process of discussing the analysis of accountability by the secretary - we can even talk about when he was a ministry, because this is an old process - and the Court of Auditors is rightly pressuring managers to take action, so that we do not have such a large liability for accountability and so that these analyzes are carried out. In the past, there was already a year in which a single statement of accounts was analyzed, which is crazy. And several procedures have already been tried. I think that the most efficient, which is what has been adopted in the last four years, is the use of technology, the digitization of the entire process, which allows for information crossing, direct connection with the bank, account control, etc. So the TCU is pressuring the current secretary [Mario Frias], just as it pressured the previous ones, in this sense. You can't approve a bunch of projects and not be accountable. That said, the argument that then only a much smaller number of projects can be approved is not correct. Because the secretary is held accountable by the TCU if he does not handle the accountability analyses, but he will also be held responsible if he does not handle the cultural policy that exists, guided by legislation that is in place. Because his role as secretary is to make the cultural policy work, that this mechanism is carried out. So it's a choice that doesn't look at the whole, just wanting to get rid of TCU. And then he will be held liable for omission.
ARTE!✱ – And beyond this technical argument, it is impossible not to think about the almost confrontational relationship that this government has established with the artistic class, with the cultural sector. This can be seen in the speeches, in the decrease in sponsorship, in the downgrading of the Ministry of Culture to Secretariat, in the attempts to cut the S System, among other things. What is happening, therefore, does not seem to be part of an “anti-culture project”, shall we say?
I think there are two things. First, the demonization of the Rouanet Law, which did not begin with this government, already comes from the PT government. Because from the minister's point of view, or today from the secretary's point of view, there is a feeling of loss in the relationship with the tax incentive. Because in the Rouanet Law, this year, for example, you have a waiver of around R$ 1,4 billion, while the Secretariat does not have a budget of R$ 400 million per year – which is spent on maintenance. So the manager has little space to create and implement public policies. And sometimes he becomes an opponent of the tax break because he thinks that money should go to him. But that is not what happens, because they are two different things, the budget for culture and the tax incentive. So a few years ago this demonization started, with totally wrong arguments. This money does not go directly to the artist, as they say when they talk about the “mamata” – there is even a limit of R$ 30 thousand. It actually made possible the implementation of a number of museums, cultural centers that use art for inclusion, non-profit institutions and so on. And this misperception started earlier, but persisted in the election campaign, with attacks on artists. Furthermore, this is not a particularly humanistic government. Everything that is linked to a better formation of the human being, such as education, sport and culture, none of this is a priority.
ARTE!✱ – Is this an unparalleled situation in the country's recent history?
I think that until the arrival of this government, there was within the Ministry, or Secretariat, a procedure to make things more oiled, so that all procedures were faster and more transparent. And even when you digitize everything, it is also more transparent. And we were on that path. What is happening now, in a direction contrary to transparency and democratization, is that in addition to the stoppage, the National Culture Incentive Commission was not renamed – it is formed by members of civil society and the projects are approved by the Secretariat. The secretary was alerted several times that it is necessary to make a public notice for the appointment of the new commission, but he did not do so. And the news that we have is that the secretary said that he will now approve it by referendum. In other words, there will be no such commission, which has always brought a balance, an intelligence, the experience of people who work in the area, and that it is the secretary who will approve or not the projects.
ARTE!✱ – With the danger of becoming something totally arbitrary…
It is a danger as a concept, regardless of any government, be it left, right or center. The more decisions are collegiate, the less the risk of errors, the greater the chance of minimizing any kind of privilege or directing.
ARTE!✱ – In this sense, we had the veto of the project of the annual plan of the Vladimir Herzog Institute in the Cultural Incentive Law for the first time in ten years. Can we consider this a case of censorship?
That's what everything indicates... Because, precisely, if you think that the institute has its annual plan approved for more than ten years, and is an institution that works with the humanities - journalism, exhibitions, materials for schools, books -, always linked to individual rights, would have no reason not to be approved. And, in fact, he was already approved when he suddenly turned around. So there's something weird there.
ARTE!✱ – Speaking now under a more economic optimum, you showed in a recent text published in Quatro Cinco Um magazine that activities linked to cultural production, in addition to their importance in themselves, are of great relevance to the economy, representing 2,6% of GDP and generating more than 1 million jobs. Not even this point of view has been enough to convince the government and sectors of society of the importance of culture?
The importance of the creative economy and cultural production in the country has already been demonstrated. It is very sad to imagine that Brazil, which has creativity in its DNA, has so few policies to reinforce this. Because, above all, it is a clean activity, easy to export and which promotes the country as a whole. It is not by chance that the USA invested so much in cinema, with the diffusion of American way of life, as well as England in the last 15 years has invested alarmingly in the creative economy. Because it qualifies people, it has a large and rapid impact on the economy – as it is closely linked to the area of services -, it does not pollute. In other words, there are a number of advantages that are not being considered in these decisions to paralyze activities. I have no doubt that many institutions will die for this. I belong to the generation that used to talk about the engineer who “turned into juice”. And now we will have artists who “turned into juice”, there will be many cultural producers who turn into bread… Which is what many are doing to survive: bread, food. Because they can't work in their areas at this time when we are all in isolation and the resources that exist are paralyzed. Even the funding by LIC at the end of last year was unexpected, positively, because I think companies already have this in their DNA. We saw this with several clients of our office, who wanted to make the money reach the institutions. And this movement, instead of being stimulated, is being paralyzed, which makes no sense. Even, if you think more generally, if this money gets into the hands of the people, it is one less “problem” for the government. There are fewer people in need of emergency support, for example, as people continue with their activities. Retaining this money is of no benefit.
ARTE!✱ – The main aid for culture that we had during this pandemic period was the Aldir Blanc Law, which released R$ 3 billion reais to states and municipalities. Is he being efficient?
It was a very big gain for the segment. It is a law that was proposed and approved by Congress, that is, it does not have a direct relationship with the executive branch. The government had to face it, and even bureaucratized things it didn't need. But this law was very positive, even thinking about the history it will leave. Because the format used was very innovative for Brazil. It was not money distributed directly by the Union to the projects, but distributed to states and municipalities. This is how this national system of culture was created, which has been discussed for years and now has its channels ready. It's a great evolution, because it's much easier for the São Paulo secretary of culture to create ways to distribute this money within the city than a guy there in Brasília, who doesn't know the local reality. And I'm talking about São Paulo or any other city. So it is a winning action and the ideal would be that in the future we have a kind of “eternal fund” Aldir Blanc to promote culture in the country.
ARTE!✱ – Speaking about a specific case in the State of São Paulo, ProAC ICMS was replaced, in January of this year, by ProAC Expresso Direto. This took many people by surprise and was criticized by agents in the cultural sector. How do you see this change?
We see it with quite a bit of surprise, trying to look at it as something that will be rolled back for years to come. There are conversations being held with the state government to understand that this change is not the best way. What it seems is that they needed to adjust the tax box a little and made an account that, in quotes, would be the same thing. As if exchanging R$ 100 million of tax waivers for R$ 100 million in a public notice were the same, but it is not. Because in the ProAC ICMS, as in the Rouanet Law, you already had a process in place. Several institutions, including within the state – with established inclusion programs, art-education projects, awards, etc. – already had a sponsor and years in the making. With ProAC Direto it is not known if they will have the resources. And there are several projects that were approved at the end of last year that had already raised a percentage of their budget and were committed to raising the rest this year. Anyway, things that got in the way. So I imagine that ProAC Direto will try to make a kind of compensation - there is a promise of holding a public notice to deal with the same type of project that was included in ProAC ICMS - but we understand that we need to go back to being like it was, because the more diverse the funding for culture, the better. So the ideal is to have public money, tax incentives, box office, donations from individuals and so on. We cannot run the risk of losing the support of companies. And that's why there is already a commission trying to negotiate for this change to be reversed
ARTE!✱ – Finally, considering this whole context we are talking about, what are the alternatives you see for cultural producers, artists and institutions at the moment? In other words, between public notices, awards, the private sector, state and municipal policies, where is it possible to seek support and funding?
We have seen that secretaries of culture in many cities have played an important role. If we specifically take the case of São Paulo, the money from the Aldir Blanc Law was distributed in October. The Secretariat had this focus to make things happen very quickly. So I think we are learning from the pandemic, and this law leaves this memory, that the closest managers are more agile, they know who needs support the most. And we have seen cities – I can also mention Niterói, Fortaleza, São Luís, among others – that at the beginning of the pandemic already came out with important public notices, which are still happening. So this is one way. In addition to public notices, there are also private ones, which have worked, even with lower amounts. As for tax incentives, there are municipal and state ICMS incentives – which, apart from São Paulo, are still active. There is also the path of donations, of philanthropy, but I don't know how long it will last. Because at the moment the basic food basket is something of an emergency, and it seems likely that people will donate more for food than for cultural projects. And even though the federal cultural incentive law is going through this difficult moment, I think it is necessary to continue pleading and trying to convince the government that this is important. Now, we work with art. And art bothers – not just this government -, that's part of it. But, in this case, this is also an unsubtle government... And art has subtlety, poetry, but this government doesn't have much poetry, it doesn't see any use in it. Anyway, it's hard, but you have to keep trying. And that's what we're talking about, that if the government doesn't understand the fun part, let's try to make it understand the social and economic part. There are a number of cultural institutions focused on the inclusion of children and adolescents and it is not possible that this is not a priority for any government. There are institutions that guarantee the food of these people…
Finally, there is another way, especially for those who are structured, such as institutions, which is international money, from international funds. To be able to access this type of funding, good planning is necessary, as there are a series of rules, forms, etc., but it is support that exists and that will probably come more to Brazil. Because when Brazil was booming, people began to think that we no longer needed this support. But now we are again seen as a country in need. So UNESCO, the Ford Foundation, various institutions focused on Latin America, among others, can be a way to help through these difficult times.