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KANAT ATKAYA >Why doesn’t Turkey lower the VAT in culture and arts?

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The recent lowering of VAT for purchases of yachts, apartments and white goods, as well as the offering of several other facilitations, are good for both the consumer and the turbulence-hit sector. 

These recent reductions, introduced for a certain period, have prompted the question on social media and in newspaper columns: “Why have there also been no reductions in cultural and artistic events?”

The entertainment sector, cultural and art activities are always hit first by economic crises. During any time of crisis, concerts regarded as “luxury consumption” receive a heavy blow. People stop going to the cinema and theater, while fewer books and magazines are bought. 

In fact, this only triggers a different kind of “poverty.” Still, those hoping for a protectionist attitude from the authorities are always disappointed. 

This is particularly the case in Turkey. With the state of affairs in the country unfolding from crisis to crisis, the publishing of books, organizing of concerts, staging of plays, and shooting of films is more difficult than ever. 

The dominant mentality that sees cultural activities only as an area of ideological maneuvering always knows how to obstruct the arts. It never crosses its minds to support them.

This mentality has a number of strategies. It may become stingy in awarding grants; it may try to bring art into line through various kinds of pressure. 

Art is a field where free production is particularly important. All of us must defend our freedom, but the arts are particularly crucial.

As a result, the VAT reductions for white goods (which I should say I have nothing against) are not afforded for the theater, music, or books. 

What can we do about this? 

Well, we could stay inside and listen to our food mixers - bought with reduced prices thanks to the VAT cuts - instead of going to concerts. 

Instead of going to the theater, we could open the door of our refrigerators to sit in front of and watch. 

Instead of ballet, we could stare at the round window of the washing machine and enjoy the harmonious whirling of underwear and socks. 

Instead of reading books, we could leaf through user manuals. 

In a speech that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivered a while ago, he said he was sorry that Turkey had still not been able to reach the desired level in two fields: One was education and the other was culture. 

Without waiting for a miracle from nature or some help from outer space, we have to do something about this. 

One possibility is removing or reducing VAT and the heavy financial load carried by the culture and arts sector.  
I don’t know what kinds of problems are faced by societies that cannot use food mixers or cannot frequently renew their white goods. 

But it is clear what happens to societies that do not read, do not learn, and who are distanced from music and theater. It is clear what happens to those who are distant from the enlightening, horizon-opening and nurturing climate of art.

February/13/2017

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