Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Heritage Decentralized

Le Conservateur
continues his reports on the failure of the French government to preserve the cultural heritage of France. Historic monuments of irreplaceable beauty are falling into ruin because money is being diverted into social programs, including care and maintenance of the illegal immigrant population. This time, he talks of a petition being proposed by an organization devoted to historic preservation:

I have already spoken about this in these columns. The situation concerning the preservation of our French national heritage is alarming, and the two terms of President Chirac mark an unprecedented regression of the State's investment in the maintenance and restoration of our monuments, both large and small.

In the period we are living in, culture is more than ever used as a tool in the service of the prevailing ideology - multiculturalism and immigrationism. This is a far cry from the mandate of public service dictated by the French Republic. The exorbitant cost of the Quai Branly Museum - more than 300 million euros, or more than the annual allotment of the government for national historic preservation, is an indication of the deviation of the budget and of the social uses of culture at the highest State level.

As usual, this so-called "right-wing" government, caught in a familiar financial bind, quietly takes money when no one is looking. How much easier it is to drain money from national historic preservation or from the maintenance of army materiel, than to cashier useless government employees or to stop subsidies to a pile of left-wing groups that defend illegal immigrants or gays.

In short, the excellent website La Tribune de l'Art reminds us of the facts relating to this problem, in a tone less polemical than mine, and urges us to sign a petition proposed by the Association of Old French Houses.

At the website mentioned above there is a long article on the danger of losing the past to neglect and mismanagement. Here are a few statistics:

In the last four years, the real sums spent on the restoration of historic monuments by the State have dropped dramatically from 500 million euros in 2002 to 200 million euros in 2006.

In 2006, 300 restoration projects have been or will be aborted, out of a total of 1000, or 30%. "It's a disaster," says Frédéric Didier, chief architect of historic monuments.

Even aborting a project has its cost, estimated at 10% of the allotment, which means that in a mid-sized region, like Burgundy, 5 million euros of credit resulted in an expenditure of 500,000 euros! All up in smoke.

The impact on human beings is serious: bankruptcies, lay-offs (700 jobs eliminated in 2005) and loss of the specialized knowledge that will undermine educational efforts. In recent years the State has created many schools and is responsible for these very qualified young people who will never find jobs.

Proprietors, be they private or collective, no longer trust a State that will not commit itself in the long term...Projects are started, then brutally suspended for lack of credit. This patent withdrawal, linked to decentralization, is exacerbated by the drop in European subsidies due to the expanding immigrant communities.

In July 2005, the French government established a list of 176 historic monuments eligible for decentralization, that is, transferral to local and regional authorities of the responsibility for maintaining the structures. On the list is the beautiful Abbey of Jumièges in Normandy, pictured above. Apparently, for the transfer to take place, the regional authorities must first accept the government's offer - for now, such transfers do not appear to be mandatory. The complete list, in alphabetical order by department, is posted at this official website.

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