According to budgetary estimates, the National Heritage, Arts and Local Government Ministry will be allocated some €26 million in additional funds when compared to last year, with the national broadcaster PBS and the controversial new Centre of the Maltese Language set to benefit.
The estimates show the ministry could spend more than €41 million on capital projects, with almost €71 million being allocated for its recurrent running costs. Another €65 million is budgeted for the local council’s recurring and capital expenditure.
Beleaguered state broadcaster PBS, running at a loss for many years, was allocated some €6.4 million in running costs, with another €2.5 million allocated for a “systems upgrade”.
In addition, €150,000 was given to the recently and hastily set up Centre for the Maltese Language.
The centre, created in July and staffed only by Saliba, is supposedly the “executive organ” of the Council for the Maltese Language.
Norma Saliba, PBS’ former head of news, was appointed by Culture Minister Owen Bonnici as the centre’s executive head days after a fallout with the station’s Executive Chair Mark Sammut, in a role set to cost taxpayers €73,000 per year.
Meanwhile, the council was allocated a budget six times less than Saliba’s centre at just €25,000.
The technically bankrupt public broadcaster has been under increased scrutiny in recent years for its opaque spending of public funds. Its programming has been found by the court to be unconstitutional and partisan.
The culture ministry will also allocate more than €6.5 million to purchase band club premises. Minister Bonnici had already spent €6 million last year to save six band clubs from being evicted from premises they could not afford to rent.
The move followed a court ruling that declared Bonnici’s ‘band club protection’ law was unconstitutional.
Next year’s budget also allocated €3.5 million for the restoration of historical buildings by the ministry, with a further €10.6 million allocated to Heritage Malta capital projects.
This year, the museums and conservation agency spent €45,000 on a single party, while following reports by The Shift, CEO Noel Zammit sent a memo to all staff, warning them of disciplinary action if they give information to third parties.
Conversely, the Consultative Council for the South of Malta and the Kottonera Rehabilitation Foundation saw budget cuts of €70,000 and €100,000, respectively. Budgeted recurrent costs for digitising the archives and UNESCO programmes were also slashed.
The Shift recently reported how the government’s failure to meet deadlines laid down by UNESCO and to cooperate on matters related to cultural heritage are putting Valletta’s heritage status at risk.