Italy to offer every 18-year-old €500 to spend on culture

Covering anything from concerts to DVDs, the scheme will cost the cash-strapped exchequer €290m

Italy, Culture

A version of Michelangelo's David in Florence [Pixabay]

While Italy is still reeling from its recent deadly earthquake, not to mention a poor economic performance that has resulted in youth unemployment of 40%, the country’s young people will come to benefit from a new scheme launching this month that will see every 18-year-old receive €500 to spend on culture, courtesy of Italian taxpayers.

According to the new initiative, every school pupil in the graduating class who turns 18 before December 31st will be entitled to claim back money spent on cultural pursuits, including going to the theatre, concerts, visiting museums and archaeological sites, and buying books, DVDs and music. The scheme, set to come into effect on September 15th, will be offered to as many as 575,000 school pupils, and will cost the Italian exchequer €290m.

To apply for the scheme, the young people will be able to register on a government website and then will receive the money in the form of vouchers doled out by a special app, 18app.it, which can be downloaded on smartphones, tablets, and computers.

From September 15th, the students have until December 31st, 2017 to spend all of their credited money, in a country that has so many UNESCO World Heritage sites the government decided to not even bother applying this year for a new one.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi first announced the proposal in the wake of last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris, which left 130 dead in a number of restaurants and the Bataclan music hall. At the time, Renzi pledged that Italy would increase its defence and security budget by more than a billion euros, but that that sum would be matched by a further billion euros spent on culture. At the time, Renzi said it was as important to fight extremist violence with good policing and intelligence as with developing a nation built on a strong accordance to Europe’s cultural values.

“This is a bonus for kids coming of age, to give them the symbolic awareness of what it means to be an adult in Italy – a main protagonist and heir of the greatest cultural heritage in the world,” Renzi said in November last year.

“We will not give in to terror. We have centuries of history that proclaim the fact that culture will beat ignorance, that beauty is more tenacious than barbarism.”

The cultural bonus scheme has been criticised by several prominent opposition deputies in the Italian parliament’s lower house, with many saying the initiative was a crass attempt to curry favour with a new generation of Italians eligible for the electoral register by the centre-left Democratic Party.

But the school students who will receive the bonus have welcomed it. “Of course we’re happy. Giving each of us €500 to spend on culture means investing in our future. And it won’t be imposed from on high, but instead will allow us to participate directly,” said Angelica Magazzino, a Puglian who turns 18 in November. She said she planned to spend her credit on attending dance lessons and going to the ballet.

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