Culture sponsorships to be rewarded with tax benefits as incentive for private contribution to restoration work

Encouraging sponsors for culture is the objective of a new draft bill submitted Tuesday by Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. The minister believes that provisions for tax benefits will attract private organizations and individuals from Greece and abroad toward supporting Greek culture by sponsoring the restoration of monuments and large cultural events. The bill, due to be voted in at the end of this year or in early 2007, will offer generous tax benefits – namely 66.67 percent of the sum offered by the sponsor will be deducted from their gross income. Two-thirds is «a very high sum,» the minister told the press, given that such deductions abroad do not exceed 50 percent. The draft bill, which took five months to prepare, is one of many that Culture Ministry officials are working on. A bill about the National Theater and Dance Center will be announced next week and another is being drafted on the looting of antiquities. A sponsorship department that will answer directly to the minister will supply information about the legislation, collect information about activities that might attract financial support, publish an annual catalog, receive the proposals sent by potential sponsors and send them with a report to the sponsorship council for a ruling. The nine-member council will be appointed by the minister and will comprise an economist, a Supreme Court lawyer, a representative of the Chamber of Trade and Industry, the head of the General Accounting Office directorate, the General Director of Antiquities, the head of the Contemporary Culture Directorate, a museum or gallery director, an artist and a representative of the Advertising Companies’ Union. The council will recommend the basic priorities of sponsorship policy, rule on priorities, and give suggestions to the minister on awards and titles for certain distinguished sponsors. The Culture Ministry will take 0.6 percent of the sum given by each sponsor and pass it on to the Organization for the Promotion of Greek Culture. «There are many admirers of the cultural heritage who would like to donate their fortune to expedite work on restoring the Acropolis,» said Voulgarakis, who has at least one case in mind. And, he added, there are Greeks abroad «who would like to contribute.» When the bill has been voted on in Parliament, the minister will take action himself. «I’ll call up friends who have money, and plenty of it, and tell them to support the Thessaloniki Film Festival, for example, or the Temple of Apollo Epicurius.» Questions The ministry’s desire to get private sponsors forking out to restore Greek monuments with private capital raises many questions. Which monuments will be sponsored? Will private individuals or enterprises want to use them in advertising? How will archaeological sites, finds, and digs be protected? Sponsorship is one thing, said Voulgarakis, and «aesthetic pollution» is another, he added when asked about what limits would be placed on sponsors. The new bill will allow costly restoration work to be completed on significant monuments, such as the ancient theater of Dodoni. «The only incentive you can offer is a generous tax break,» he said.