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April 12, 2021

Culture from… contingency fund

The Bucharest City Council has recently allocated over 2/7 million lei from the budget contingency fund for the completion and mounting of the ‘Wings’ monuments in the Press Square in Bucharest. Which wouldn’t be that bad, as our life would be so much poorer without cultural events and monuments. However, when we speak about a city besieged by stringent needs, that has got loose hinges everywhere, still striving to go back to its former Small Paris condition, a European capital city where there are still unpaved streets, without sewerage or running water, where the holes in the carriageway pose deadly threats every minute of the day, where the stray dog problem has not yet been resolved, where the residents shiver every summer thinking about the possibility of having no heat in the coming winter as the Municipality might stop subsidising the cost of producing heat, where the district administrations are suffocated by social homes applications from people who have nowhere to live, where there are still ghettoes where children play amidst syringes and rats, with so many narrow streets, suffocated by the lack of parking spaces, with residential buildings unreachable by fire-fighters, for example, where ancient rusty rubbish collecting engines crawl, leaving behind trails of stinky fluids, a hotbed of infections, where the social workers and local police need to buy their own pens and paper because the budget is not enough to cover such expenses, where there is not enough money even for rubbish bins, the allocation of 2.7 million lei for two wings and a base is outrageous.

The recitals of the paperwork based on which the monument was developed says that an extra 16,671,000 was allocated afterwards from the City Council contingency fund and, in May, the Administration of Monuments and Tourist Heritage sent a letter asking for the urgent allocation of another 2,740,000 lei.

Why do we need to pay that kind of money for a monument? That is not being told to us. They just tell us that it is absolutely necessary. And even urgent. A monument that has to be built. Now, as a matter of urgency, paid for with money taken from the Municipality contingency fund which is supposed to be kept for calamities and exceptional situations. Why now, after 25 years when the base in front of the Press House has been empty?

The emptiness of the base has given it a special charm over the last quarter of a century. From the symbol of freedom from communism – as, shortly after the 1989 anti-communist Revolution, on 5 March 1990, the 7 metre tall bronze statue of Vladimir I. Lenin was pulled down in the applauses of the crowd – to the target of irony of the hundreds of journalists working at the Press House who were ‘threatened’ by superiors and colleagues that they would end up standing on that empty base after every successful journalistic investigation, since no other reward could live up to the height of the sacrifices made for the profession, the base has written history by its very presence in that square.

It would have sufficed to just place a pen on top of it. A contemporary poem. A press story. Everyone would have quickly recognised any of those things as a symbol of painstakingly gained democracy and freedom fighting. Why do the people of Bucharest need to pay all this money for a monument that virtually stands for the same thing? Why do we need a 130-ton, 28m tall mastodon, a project commencing in 2003 that has required a lot of resistance and stability calculations leading to repeated delays? Money, lots of it – 9 million lei plus VAT, in total, meaning roughly 2 million euro -, time, ambitions… for what? And, most importantly, why? Paid for with money meant to deal with urgent issues of the Capital. But why should we be surprised at all since we live in the country where a single kilometre of motorway is completed in a record… long time and costs 5-6 million euro, what ten kilometres, if not more, cost others?!…



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