Cultural vouchers in Brazil

by on January 26, 2013 at 4:36 am in The Arts | Permalink

This old idea from Alan Peacock will be implemented:

Despite the economic crisis, Brazil announced Thursday it planned to give workers here a 50-real ($25) monthly stipend for cultural expenses like movies, books or museums. “In all developed countries, culture plays a key role in the economy,” Culture Minister Marta Suplicy said in an interview on national television. She recalled that popular former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva created “Bolsa Familia” (Family Grant), the program of conditional cash transfers to the poor which his successor, President Dilma Rousseff, expanded. “Now we are creating food for the soul; Why would the poor not be able to access culture?” the minister said. Suplicy said the new incentive, approved by Congress and endorsed by Rousseff late last month, is expected to be introduced some time this year.
Here is a bit more, and for the pointer I thank Bill Badrick.

1 Ed January 26, 2013 at 5:13 am

But isn’t this the rationale of subsidizing the arts, so that they are priced relatively cheaply? The government wants to encourage participation of the arts, but experience indicates that the arts delivered by the free market will either be very expensive high brow stuff, or cheaply priced low brow entertainment. What I don’t get is why a voucher program is needed when there are already established other channels of arts subsidies that seem to work well.

2 Handle January 26, 2013 at 5:23 am

I’m pretty sure some of us would prefer our government culture expenditures in the form of vouchers, in part because we simply do not trust the government to spend wisely or for our actual benefit.

3 Rahul January 26, 2013 at 5:32 am

Why not simply free-market sans vouchers then?

4 Gabriel E January 26, 2013 at 9:53 am

It’s a compromise. If some of my tax dollars are going to culture, at LEAST let it be culture I like.

5 derek January 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Lets see. Jazz, the American Songbook, Rock and Roll. Each genre includes drivel and transcendance, all driven not by government subsidy but by audiences and performers.

On the other hand the subsidized Canadian art scene labored to produce Celine Dion.

6 Millian January 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm

“The American Songbook” is hardly much better than Celine Dion, and you only got the other two because your country enslaved and oppressed more racial minorities than Canada.

7 clazy January 28, 2013 at 10:40 am

Which only goes to show that slavery is a general good. As a great man once said, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.

8 farmer January 26, 2013 at 8:48 pm

and created arguably the worst band ever in Nickleback

9 Roy January 26, 2013 at 5:58 am

So 200 million Brazilians times $25*12= $60 billion

I am sure they didn’t just create a $60 billion program, but I can’t read the link where I am now. But if Brazil’s budget is $900 billion, that would be more than 6% of federal expenditure?

I know we are just entering the Pre Salt era, but times aren’t that good.

10 Cyrus January 26, 2013 at 9:26 am

The stipend amount is twice the per child welfare stipend. Something is straining credibility here.

11 farmer January 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm

you think all 200 million will use it? I think BRA would be ELATED if 5% used it

12 JWatts January 27, 2013 at 12:18 am

The article says the stipend only goes to the working poor. The cost is projected at $3.5 billion. That still seems like a lot of money.

I wonder if live performance dance is covered? And can you use the vouchers for tipping?

13 Roy January 27, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Maybe that $3.5 billion could be spent better on fire code enforcement in nightclubs.

14 Moggio January 26, 2013 at 6:31 am

I’d love a long post by Tyler about Sir Alan Peacock and his contributions to cultural economics!

15 LLL January 26, 2013 at 7:49 am

I’m pretty sure these Vouchers are not meant to everybody. Like “Bolsa Familia” people who get these will probably be in the 1 minimum wage range.

only low income people will get these. Although i would think Healthcare here isn’t good enough that you can drop any extra money on culture. Just keep doing like the Romans did, that’s Rouseff’s motto.

16 Emil January 26, 2013 at 8:32 am

This is not about culture, it’s about brainwash as you will of course only be able to use the vouchers for what the government classifies as culture

17 anon January 26, 2013 at 9:13 am

so no porn?

18 FBM January 26, 2013 at 4:39 pm

No need for porn. Brazilian soap operas are almost soft porn.

19 Rahul January 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

If the government wants to brainwash why use vouchers when subsidies, grants and direct patronage would suffice?

20 Eric January 26, 2013 at 9:39 am

And in a related story, the price of movie tickets has climbed to an average of $26 in Brazil

21 Mark W January 26, 2013 at 9:46 am

I can see this being a success, especially with museums, theaters, etc., that also serve food (“food for the stomach”, to be precise) and accept vouchers for it.

22 Arthur January 26, 2013 at 10:22 am

“The “Culture Stipend” will be paid through an electronic card, with employers deciding whether to extend the benefit to workers earning up to five times the minimum wages (up to $1,700 a month.) Employers will cover 90 percent of the cost of the stipend but can then deduct the amount from their income tax. Workers will pay the remaining 10 percent, but can opt out if they choose to do so. “There are many Brazilians, 17 million, who today earn up to five minimum wages, which could potentially means an injection of $3.5 billion in the cultural sector,” Suplicy said in an editorial published in the Folha de Sao Paulo “

23 Leo January 26, 2013 at 10:45 am

Brazilian here. THe voucher is aimed to employees that receive less than 5 minimum wages (about USD 300 /month). They must be in the formal sector of the economy. So this 12 million workers (max) are not among the Brazilian poorest.
(BTW -as far as I know – the voucher will be used in any cultural good. The government will not have any power)

The current system of “art” support in Brazil is criminal or – at best – insane. The ministry of culture select projects and firms can deduct up to 100% of their corporate taxes. Cirque du Soleil, Bob Dylan gigs and even blogs have received funds. Unfortunately I do not think that the vouchers will replace the system.

24 Carlos January 27, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Adding something to Leo`s comment!

This program is not like “bolsa familia”, for it is not direct cash transfer from the government.

It will work like this: if the employer wants to, he can pay R$50,00 to the worker to get a R$45,00 tax discount. So, the total cost for the employer is R$5,00.

If it generates an extra cost to the employer, why would he do that? Because, legaly, this payment is not considered wage, but an “extra”. And “extras” can be legally reduced, while wages cannot. So it is like a flexible form of wage to the employer. If you want to raise your company’s wages, but you`re just not too sure about it, raise the cultural voucher. You can reduce it later.

But, to the workers, it will not make a diference. It is not like he is getting more money, he is just getting a percentage of his wage with a “spend this only in culture” stamp on it.

25 Carlos January 27, 2013 at 7:46 pm

One correction:

– what I said abou the tax deduction was based on this article from Estadao (in portuguese):,marta-suplicy-diz-que-trabalhador-decide-o-que-comprar-com-o-vale-cultura,985617,0.htm

But the article does not seem quite acurate. I checked the law project in the congress website (which I should have done before posting the comment) and it states that the employer can deduct up to 1% of the tax on profit (art. 10).

The information about the voucher not beeing considered wage is correct though (art. 11).

26 Alexei Sadeski January 26, 2013 at 10:45 am

Politicians are such petty boors. Why don’t they just hand out cash instead of vouchers? Or is only officially sanctioned culture acceptable?

27 Bill January 26, 2013 at 11:18 am

Now, this is not a bad idea.

Cities create cultural pleasures for the middle class, and have hamburger flippers pay for them. The person flipping hamburgers pays for the new baseball stadium, or the library, or the cultural arts program…few of which are attended by the poor (except perhaps the homeless, which live in the library.)

I wonder what would happen if we gave every city inhabitant a $200 voucher to use city facilities, and then instituted charges for access to facilities. (Open Parks might be hard to police attendance, but facilities might be OK). You could use scannable cards or pin cards or proximity cards to measure usage and or attendance).

How would the offerings of cities change? What “cultural events” would suffer. Would suburbanites begin to have to pay for that which they get a free ride on?

28 Roy January 26, 2013 at 1:37 pm

The sports stadiums would still get built on the public dime, because the owners of teams would threaten to move. You forget that the NFL usually sells out. On the other hand, the main users of the most popular parks, the ones with picnic areas, beaches, and sports fields would be limited in how often they got to use them because of the fees, and most of the vouchers would go unused, since they wouldn’t be exchangable for cable tv. And since most high culture in the US is run by private non profits, they wouldn’t be affected at all.

29 RR January 26, 2013 at 1:31 pm

We should have foodie vouchers. Not food stamps but vouchers for the consumption of hipster food products as measured by its prevalence on Instagram. So you can use it to buy organic farmers’ market baby carrots but not supermarket carrots. Only non-Asians would be able to use it to buy tofu but anyone could use them to buy truffle oil. It can’t be used for pizza unless it’s topped with artichokes.

30 anon January 26, 2013 at 1:46 pm


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