3.2 Overall description of the systemThe administration of the country has three levels: central administration, municipal administration and the autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira which have been granted their own special political administrative status and political organs. The central government - in this case the Ministry of Culture - is the body which has the highest level of responsibility for defining and implementing cultural policy.
It should be mentioned, however, that culture has become increasingly important in the management of local public affairs - although not all councils are equally invested in the cultural field. Looking at culture as a proportion of the local councils' overall budgets, it can be observed that not only has there been an absolute increase in expenditure on culture since the end of the 1980s, but that culture also accounted for an increasing portion of total expenditure. Also notable are the number of partnerships, and the resulting sharing of responsibilities, between central government and local councils. These partnerships were set up to establish and develop networks of cultural facilities, like the National Public Libraries Network (Rede Nacional de Bibliotecas Públicas - RNBP) in 1987, the first network launched by the Ministry of Culture, and the Portuguese Museums Network (Rede Portuguesa de Museus - RPM), in 2000.
Apart from the departments of the Ministry of Culture and local councils, some foundations play a significant role in cultural policy, by reason of the support they give to culture and the arts, the events they organize, and the cultural initiative agreements they make with the Ministry of Culture.