Italy/ 6.2 Public cultural expenditure  

6.2.2 Public cultural expenditure broken down by level of government

For the time being, it is not possible to comply with the classification of public cultural expenditure in Italy broken down by level of government according to the Compendium requirements.

Such a classification will be possible in the future only by means of special surveys. In fact, Istat's National Accounts breakdown is presently available only as far as state and local expenditure are concerned (where local includesregional, provincial and municipal expenditure), without any further distinction among levels of government. Such distinctions are quite problematic, for the total lack of official data on regional cultural expenditure, as regional budgets are not easily comparable, not having been standardised yet. On the other hand, overall, aggregated data on cultural expenditure both by the provinces and the municipalities are made available by Istat provincial and municipal accounts (see chapter 3.2).

For the time being, the following are the only comprehensive official data on overall public cultural expenditure allowing reliable and homogenous analysis of trends throughout the 2000s. It is worth noting that public cultural expenditure in Italy has traditionally been highly centralised, although the state share had gradually declined to around 40% of the total at the turn of the century.

Table 4:    Public cultural expenditure by level of government, in million EUR, 2001 and 2014





Level of government

million EUR

% of total

million EUR

% of total

% var.



2 476


1 903




3 623


3 561




6 099


5 464



Source:    Elaborations by Associazione per l'Economia della Cultura on ISTAT / COFOG data.
Notes:      For the level of government data, consolidation is made within each level but not between levels.Therefore, the total public cultural expenditure is not consolidated.The data presented here are taken from the European System of Accounts 1995 - ESA95 Questionnaire 1100_S13 - Expenditure of General Government. The COFOG groups considered are: 08.20 Cultural services (IS), 08.30 Broadcasting and publishing services (CS), and the residual group 08.50 R&D Recreation, culture, and religion (CS).
*           State expenditure mainly includes the Ministry for Heritage and the Prime Minister's Office.
**         Local expenditure includes Regional, Provincial and Municipal expenditure.

Table 4 shows that the decentralisation process went even further in the 2000s, as in 2014 around 2/3 of the public financing of culture was provided by local authorities, that is by the regions, provinces and municipalities. In fact, the decline has been much sharper in state expenditure (-23%), mostly allocated by the Ministry of Heritage for cultural services, followed at much distance by the Department of Information of the Prime Minister's Office and by the Ministry for Economic Development for audiovisual and publishing services, whose contribution declined at a much higher rate, mainly related to the collapse of subsidies to the press (see chapter 4.2.3). Such decreases in state expenditure have been counterbalanced and mitigated by more stability in local expenditure: the latter decreasing only by -1.8 %, while the decline of total public cultural expenditure has actually been limited at around 10%.

This diversified trend between local and state expenditure is also evident in Figure 4, showing the respective yearly ups and downs throughout the 2000s.

Figure 4:   Trends in public cultural expenditure by level of government 2001-2014 (million EUR)

Source:    Elaborations by Associazione per l'Economia della Cultura on ISTAT/COFOG data.

After a quite dynamic trend for cultural expenditure under the centre-left rule in the late 1990s, Figure 4 shows a sudden slow-down in the state cultural financing at the beginning of the subsequent decade (when Berlusconi and the centre-right went back to power), followed alternatively by a decrease, stagnation and a moderate increase until 2008. At the same time local expenditure was slowly increasing. The highest peak for cultural expenditure was reached for both the state and the local level in 2008, with overall public cultural expenditure at 8 052 million EUR. Its drop between 2009 and 2014 to 6 464 million - clearly a consequence of the economic and financial downturn - has been quite harsh… In this time-span the trend of local cultural expenditure, badly affected by cuts in state transfers, has also been slowing down (-21%), although much less, indeed, than the nearly halved state cultural expenditure (-47%), thus acting, in some way, as a moderating factor.

Chapter published: 15-07-2016