6.1 Short overview
Public funding through the Ministry of Culture, its related structures, and regional and municipal councils, represents one of the most important financial resources for the culture sector. It is followed by a very weak level of private funding to culture either by investing in cultural institutions or through sponsoring cultural events or by donation of prizes to a particular cultural field. The pilot project for the mechanism of a credit insurance fund for cultural industries (established in cooperation with the OIF) was experimented in Tunisia had the objective to diversify culture sector financing through banking system, though it was not highly welcomed by the beneficiaries of public funds – non-reimbursable funds- and Tunisian banking lacked information about culture sector economic dynamics.
The emphasis on public funding as a major funder of the cultural sector resulted in the gradual growth of the budget of the Ministry of Culture reaching 1 %of State budget by 2009 (as an implementation of a presidential decision at the time). The Ministry budget underwent a sudden decline by 2011 due to the suspension of one major cultural project (the City of Culture) and to the change in priorities of successive governments since 2011 that focus on social issues.
From the perspective of public expenditure, the standalone of any sector funding on public financial resources may cause to reach its maximum capacity in terms of financial resources mobilization the case for the Ministry of Culture, with no further capacity to cope with new demands of the sector (Considering that most financial resources would go to maintaining the existing infrastructure). This situation was described in a study funded by UNESCO in 2011 about Employment in Culture as a risk for total capital loss (cultural capital) unless cultural investment would be reorganized more effectively, coupled with an actual reduction in the centralization level of the public administration.
From the perspective of cultural dynamics, the excessive dependence on public funding in the cultural production and in artists and cultural associations may reduce, directly or indirectly, the level of artistic independence of the creator and of various players in the culture sector as a result of the strong material link with the State or the governing system (valid for any political framework). This may cause a reduction in the richness and the diversity of cultural expressions in the framework of compromise that is set between the creator and the authority.
In fact, the cultural enterprise (as an artist or as a private structure) in Tunisia needs new mechanisms of funding that take in consideration the specificities of the financial cycle in cultural production and that can reinforce the relative independence from public funds controlled by political intentions. Microfinance mechanisms may be one of possible solutions.