Cabo Verde: Five UNESCO applications suspended, lack of funding

Five Cape Verdean UNESCO heritage projects will be suspended in 2021 due to a lack of funding, which the government justifies by the parliament’s rejection of the proposal to increase the public debt ceiling.

According to official information from the Ministry of Culture and Creative Industries of Cabo Verde consulted today by Lusa, that sector will have a budget cut, which was not foreseen until now, of 112 million escudos (€1 million) in 2021, so the priority will be to focus on the conclusion of projects that were already underway and in the final phase.

These cuts include five projects for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), from the former concentration camp of Tarrafal, on the island of Santiago, but whose work to rehabilitate the camp, built during Portugal’s dictatorship, which would precede the application, is in the final phase, and also the town of Nova Sintra (Brava Island) and the city of São Filipe (Fogo Island), the three World Heritage Sites.

The application projects of Tabanca (musical genre) and the Festas de São João (which take place in various parts of the archipelago) to the Intangible Cultural Heritage, also of UNESCO, are also suspended.

This setback occurs when ‘morna’, typical Cape Verdean musical genre, marks on Friday the first anniversary (11 December 2019) of the proclamation of UNESCO’s World Intangible Cultural Heritage. Ten years ago, the Old Town on the island of Santiago had already been elevated to a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

“The government of Cabo Verde has outlined an ambitious project for the Culture and Creative Industries sector for the 2016/2021 mandate. Most of these projects have been realised. But, unfortunately, the pandemic of the new coronavirus had a strong impact on the culture sector, which dictated major changes for the Cape Verdean economy and the State Budget,” said the minister of culture, Abraão Vicente, in the official information.

However, according to the government, the budget cut that suspended several projects – in addition to applications to UNESCO also financing cultural activities or the restructuring of Cape Verdean Radio and Television (RTC), among others – is the result of the parliament’s non-approval of the government’s proposal to increase the limit of domestic debt, from the current 3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to 4.5% in 2021, due to the need to make up for the lack of tax revenues, but also due to the fall in nominal GDP due to the economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the majority vote of the Movement for Democracy (MpD), the proposal to amend, by way of exception, the limit on domestic public indebtedness required a qualified majority and ended up not passing the vote in parliament on 27 November because it did not have the support of the opposition.

In the proposed amendment to the law, the government recalled that the health and economic crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic forced the adoption of an exceptional set of measures to control the epidemiological situation of the country and mitigate the effect of the economic crisis, with the strengthening of social inclusion measures and support to businesses.

This bill established a temporary measure to increase the limit of domestic indebtedness, in the context of Covid-19. This is because, to ensure the sustainability of public finances, the Basic Law of the State Budget establishes a specific annual limit of central government debt, namely the annual limit of financing with domestic resources up to 3% of GDP at market prices, which the government wanted to raise to 4.5% during the year 2021.

The Cabo Verde government estimates a GDP of nearly 195 billion escudos (€1.76 billion) for 2021, so that domestic indebtedness, with a weight of 4.5% of GDP, could be worth up to almost 8.74 billion escudos (€78.9 million) next year. Without this change, this indebtedness (3% of GDP) could reach 5.82 billion (€52.6 million), which will be lower than the pre-pandemic cash inflow.