SINGAPORE: A new fund will be created by the government to encourage private donations to arts and culture.
In his Budget speech earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said that significant investments will be made to nurture the arts.
A 200 million—dollar kitty will be set up for the new Cultural Donation Matching Fund and the government will use the money to match donations to arts and culture, dollar for dollar.
The fund was created as a way to encourage private donations and as recognition of the growing role the arts plays in enriching life in Singapore.
While more details will only be made available in the upcoming Budget debate, members of the arts community say this has been a long time coming.
Janice Koh, an actress and nominated Member of Parliament, said: "Not unlike the business sector, they (arts and culture) have come under increasing pressure from rising costs. So the government does play a part but the funding from the government is sometimes barely 20 per cent, which means that they face a lot of pressure in finding the remaining 80 per cent. So sponsorship does count for a lot of that 80 per cent.
"The matching fund is great because it does two things — one it incentivises arts groups and artists to go out there and find additional sources of funding and they’re motivated. At the same time, it encourages donations from the private sector, philanthropic organisations and individuals to contribute to the arts cause, knowing that the money has double the impact now, and it will raise an additional 100 per cent of what they’ve given."
Ms Koh added that the fund is timely, given that arts groups are facing increasing pressure from rising costs and cannot rely on just filling seats to get by.
Still, it is hoped that this boost in funding will not put curbs on creativity.
She said: "The ideal situation and how it can be really successful is if the fund really just rewards philanthropic giving and the final decision as to how those funds are used lie with the arts groups. It gives them flexibility and they can still maintain a relationship directly with their fund providers and their sponsors.
"What we want is to motivate the arts groups to go out there, seek funding, double it up, and do what they always do, do what they want to do as opposed to using the fund to attract sponsors to give to a government fund, which then the government decides how they want to disburse. It shouldn’t replicate what they’re already doing in terms of arts grants."
Alvin Tan, artistic director at The Necessary Stage, commented: "Some corporates and some individuals might give us money but there’re no strings attached, which means there’s more autonomy to do works that push the envelope or works that are slightly controversial. But with the government coming into the picture and giving one—for—one, I’m not sure about the terms and conditions so the devil’s in the details. It depends on how the scheme is rolled out and how it pans out."
It is also hoped that more money will lead to more local content — which requires time and money to produce.
Mr Tan said it can take The Necessary Stage about nine months to stage an original work of high standard.
He said: "It’s a growing scene, growing industry in terms of our Singaporean works. That’s where it needs support. Research and development also needs support. So in that sense the funding would be good. Because we rely on multiple revenue streams so it would be good that we enlarge or we encourage funding coming from individuals as well as more corporate funding.
"You can take a play that’s been tried and tested from overseas because they have done the process and you bring it to Singapore and you produce it, which is fine also, because it adds to the diversity, to the ecology. But you’re not getting your original works. Where would your original works stand? So groups that are doing original works need to go into research and development — they are taking risks. So if philanthropy is not in the picture, then we would just be doing a lot of foreign works."
Mr Tan added that he hopes having such a fund will also encourage a culture of giving to the arts.
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