Editors: books contribute to the state budget, not the deficit

English Section / 24 august 2023

Editors: books contribute to the state budget, not the deficit

Versiunea în limba română

The dispute between book editors and the Ciolacu Government is far from over, despite some pacifist messages coming from the Minister of Culture, Raluca Turcan. The Board of Directors of the Association of Publishers in Romania expresses its concern that the measures discussed publicly during this period will have a detrimental impact on culture and, in particular, on written culture. According to the editors: "The value chain of the book, which includes authors, editors, booksellers, and librarians, has been on the brink of survival for many years, so any measure that affects one of the actors can disrupt all the others in the medium term. We refer, first and foremost, to the possible modification of the VAT level for books, currently in line with the average of the European Union countries, given that Romania has the lowest per capita book market in the EU. Any increase in the VAT level for books will further stifle the distribution chain, with arrears already increasing, and will increase the risk of insolvencies and bankruptcies in this sector."

The editors also talk about the negative impact of measures applied to liberal professions: "At the same time, fiscal measures targeting liberal professions will have a negative impact on the activity of translators, who are already paid below the level of their counterparts in other countries due to the modest circulation of the titles on the Romanian market. We strongly emphasize the lack of any support measures for the opening and operation of physical bookstores, which penalizes any initiative in the field and affects book distribution. Romania is by no means a paradise of written culture because the support measures present in national legislation or those of stimulation applied at the European level are not translated into reality. We specifically refer to the non-compliance with the library law (No. 334/2002), which provides for the annual renewal of the book stock of any library with fifty books ("documents") per thousand inhabitants. According to the National Association of Public Libraries (ANBPR), in 2019, the Romanian State, which manages public libraries in Romania, missed this minimum objective by over 82%, due to inadequate funding. This is also one of the reasons why AER has already requested, through the Reading Pact launched on February 15th, the full compliance with this law. In the context of rising costs of paper and printing, which have increased the selling prices of books, the importance of libraries for social protection is evident through their mission of facilitating access to written culture for vulnerable categories, primarily."

The abolishment of unoccupied librarian positions represents another blow to this field. The functioning scheme of libraries is incomplete due to very poor salary conditions as well as the lack of resources, which deter young people from pursuing this profession. Centralization is another issue highlighted by the Publishers' Association: "The forced centralization of cultural institutions, including libraries, under the pretext of streamlining fund allocation, is another reason for concern: the state budget does not suffer due to any alleged financial hemorrhage in the field of written culture, so the estimated savings that will be achieved on this occasion will have negligible values. What will be achieved, on the other hand, is a long-term imbalance in the cultural sector, including in terms of attractiveness for employment. Therefore, we also join the alarm signals raised by the Culturalia union regarding the danger of giving up county cultural directions, which could have a detrimental effect on the protection of heritage buildings and protected areas." The editors suggest that policymakers try to recover the budget deficit from other parts of the economy outside the cultural sector.

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