Egypt art, culture prizes may not be cancelled this year

Mohammed Saad , Sunday 21 Jul 2013

New culture minister Saber Arab seeks to recover financial value of annual prizes blocked by former minister; hopes to disburse funds in August

Saber Arab
Minister of Culture, Saber Arab (Photo: Other)

Egypt's new culture minister Saber Arab revived hopes on Sunday that Egypt's highest state prizes in arts and culture may still be granted despite delays.  Arab, who took office on 17 July, stated that he is trying to recover the financial value of the prizes from the finance ministry in order to grant them in August.

Arab told Ahram Online that he sent an official memo to finance minister Ahmed Galal, asking him to return the necessary LE7 million ($1 million approx.) to the Supreme Council for Culture (SCC).

The finance ministry has not yet responded to the request, but it promised to consider the memo.

The state prizes were supposed to be disbursed in June, however former culture minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz did not hold the required meeting to vote on prize recipients and refused to authorise any SCC members to head it in his stead.

According to regulations, the SCC meeting to vote on and announce the winners of Egypt's highest state prizes in culture, arts, and science was supposed to be held before 20 June.  Because the Egyptian fiscal year ends on 20 June, the SCC returned its financial surpluses to the finance ministry – including the LE7 million in award money.

Abdel-Aziz, who spent only one month in office, met with much resistance from Egyptian artists and intellectuals as he sacked most of the ministry’s senior officials, replacing them with lower profile figures.  His critics accused him of attempting to 'Brotherhoodise' the ministry, a reference to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood regime under former president Morsi.

The Shura Council, Egypt's upper house which was dissolved on 3 July following Morsi's ouster, wanted to decrease the financial award, deeming it a waste of public funds. The move outraged intellectuals, who took the Islamist-dominated parliament's decision as a "Brotherhood scheme" to destroy Egyptian culture

According to Arab, the SCC meeting to vote on the prizes will be held as soon as the money is recovered.

The SCC is considered one of the most important institutions within Egypt's culture ministry, as it is responsible for setting ministry policy and organising ministry activities.

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