"Arts institutions across Italy are reeling from a sweeping round of budget cuts adopted this summer by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's four-month-old conservative government. More than $1.3 billion has been slashed from the culture ministry’s budget for the next three years. The cuts have affected hundreds of museums and archaeological sites that depend on state money, as well as opera houses, theaters, filmmakers, libraries, archives and conservators of monuments and artworks; they also threaten the lush countryside, which the Culture Ministry is expected to protect.
Weak economic growth and stricter EU limits on government budget deficits have forced member countries to reduce public arts financing. But critics here grumble of particular shortsightedness in Italy. While the nation touts its cultural heritage as an essential component of national economic growth, critics say the government fails to preserve this precious resource. (“It is our oil,” Sandro Bondi, the culture minister, told the Turin daily La Stampa this week.) Italy’s most recent operating budget allocated just 0.28 percent to the culture ministry."