Cultural development institutions continue to be built and completed to aid national development in the new period
Communist Review - Building, consolidating, and completing cultural institutions is an essential basis for maximizing resources to make culture the spiritual foundation, goal, and strong impetus for national construction and defense. A comprehensive assessment of this work in order to identify bottlenecks and work out solutions is urgently needed to boost cultural development and to contribute to reinforcing national strength in the new period.
Assessing the effectiveness of building and completing institutions and mobilizing resources for cultural development
First, a comprehensive and systematic legal framework has been developed, providing a stepping stone for the cultural sector to boost its internal strength and contribute to national development.
Vietnam currently has 5 laws (the Law on Cinematography, the Law on Cultural Heritage, the Law on Advertising, the Law on Intellectual Property, and the Library Law), 50 decrees, 14 prime ministerial decisions, and more than 100 circulars relating to culture. They represent a relatively consistent legal framework, contributing to institutionalizing and specifying the regulations of the 2013 Constitution on ensuring people’s right to create literature and works of art, to access and enjoy cultural values, and to participate in cultural life.
Institutionalization of the legal system has made the relationship between entities in the cultural system healthier and more harmonious. The State has become the manager and sponsor rather than the commander of the cultural sector. This restructuring has raised the status of the legal and policy system in the cultural area.
Second, the available policy framework has generated a favorable institutional environment for cultural industries to exploit and convert cultural resources into the cultural soft power.
The birth of the “National strategy for the development of cultural industries in Vietnam until 2020 with a vision until 2030” in 2016 was another step toward a favorable institutional climate to exploit and convert cultural resources into appealing cultural products and services.
Ministries and branches, particularly the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, have been working hard to build and complete institutions, policies, and laws in an effort to create a legal corridor for and encourage the development of cultural industries. Institutional and policy changes have enabled the cultural sector to contribute more to Vietnam’s economic growth. Cultural industries’ share in Vietnam’s GDP grew from 2.68% in 2015 to 3.61% in 2018.
Third, legislation offering tax incentives and encouraging socialization has gradually created the legal basis for the mobilization of social resources for cultural development.
State budget allocation for the cultural sector increased year by year during the 2014-2019 period with investments for cultural development channeled through the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism totaling 5,735.442 billion VND (approximately 239 million USD), including 918.653 billion VND of development capital.
Investments for cultural development in localities before 2016 were channeled through the National Target Program on Culture. In the 2014-2015 period, the program received 546 billion USD, including 290 billion VND worth of development capital.
Fundings for the Target Program on Cultural Development in the 2016-2020 period totaled 10,620 billion VND(1). These financial resources have boosted tourism and improved people’s cultural life, particularly in rural, remote, border, and island regions.
The Government has issued a resolution and several decrees(2) on private investment, offering incentives on taxation, fees, credit, and land use rights (among others) to mobilize investment, sponsorships and donations from individuals and organizations for cultural development.
The State also encourages the development of funding to promote education and training, high-quality human resources, art and literature promotion, cinematography, and publication. Under the 2014 revised VAT Law, cultural activities including exhibitions, art performances, film production, and film import, distribution, and screening enjoy a preferential tax rate of 5% instead of a 10% rate levied on goods and other services including tourism.
During the COVID-19 period, the State lowered taxes or extended tax payment deadlines to support individuals and businesses in the cultural and tourism sector. Human resources, infrastructure, and expertise have been mobilized for cultural development.
Fourth, available policies and mechanisms have contributed to improving the quality of human resources in the field of culture and art.
As of June 30, 2021, the number of people involved in the cultural, sports, and tourism sector totaled 899,950, including 19,751 in culture and art, 10,199 in sports, 870,000 in tourism, and 18,907 serving all these three areas(3). Regulations, procedures, and guidelines on personnel planning, arrangement, and appointment have been developed and fine-tuned systematically and professionally. Incentivizing policies to scout, nurture, train, and honor talents have been carried out effectively to attract high-quality human resources to the cultural sector.
Fifth, improved institutions have refined the preservation and promotion of traditional cultural values, heritages, and cultural-historical relics.
Vietnam has doubled efforts to enhance the cultural sector’s status and promote Vietnamese cultural heritage globally, in addition to implementing various programs to realize the “National strategy for the development of cultural industries in Vietnam until 2020 with a vision until 2030”.
These efforts include the program on sustainable preservation and promotion of the value of Vietnam’s cultural heritage in the 2021-2025 period, the program on digitizing Vietnam’s cultural heritage in the 2021-2030 period, and the coordination program between the Ministry of Education and Training and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on educating pupils and students about Vietnam’s traditions through relics, intangible cultural heritage, and museums.
Vietnam has been elected to the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage for the 2022-2026 term and earned UNESCO’s recognition of two more intangible heritages (the practice of Then by the Tay, Nung, and Thai ethnic minorities, and the art of pottery making of the Cham people).
Sixth, designating an annual working theme for the cultural, sports and tourism sector has created a healthy cultural environment and promoted the value and role of the family, community, and society.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism designated its working theme for 2022 as “Year of grassroots cultural environment building and personnel organization” in an effort to make building a cultural environment a breakthrough in the sector.
The Ministry advocated submitting a program to implement the movement “All people unite to build a cultural lifestyle” in the 2021-2026 period to the Prime Minister for approval. The program serves as the basis for the central steering committee to effectively lead and guide the implementation of the movement, contributing to the promotion of the role of the family, community and society in building a cultural environment and making culture the incubator for the true, the good, and the beautiful.
Seventh, available institutions and policies respect and protect the cultural diversity of ethnic groups and regions, provide people with cultural services of higher quality, and contribute to safeguarding political security and national sovereignty.
Diverse cultural programs and activities including training courses, workshops, classes, festivals, and mobile performances have been organized regularly to meet the demand of people in remote, border and island areas, helping to bridge the gap in access to cultural services between regions across Vietnam. Private investment in cultural and art activities has been promoted, creating a positive impact on society.
Eighth, cultural digitization has yielded encouraging results.
The Government has approved a number of digital transformation programs including the program to digitize Vietnam’s cultural heritages in the 2021-2030 period, the digital transformation program in the library sector until 2025 with a vision until 2030, the project to digitize festival data in the 2021-2015 period, and the project to develop an online film distribution center. During the COVID-19 pandemic, cultural and art activities were further digitized. Online art performances have become more popular.
Weaknesses and shortcomings
First, despite a large legal system governing culture, state management on the cultural sector has been less efficient and effective because many legislative documents have limited legal effect and legal norms.
Vietnam now has some 160 legislative documents relating to culture and family, including laws, ordinances, and circulars. Many of them conflict or overlap, hindering their application. An absence of a law or an ordinance on some specific areas including performing art, fine art, and photography, as well as a lack of legislative documents governing literature, games and other areas, have negatively affected state management.
Second, an incomplete institutional framework and a slow update of the “National strategy for the development of cultural industries in Vietnam until 2020 with a vision until 2030” in the new situation has hampered the cultural sector’s competitiveness and integration.
After 6 years of implementing the “National strategy for the development of cultural industries in Vietnam until 2020 with a vision until 2030”, the goal of increasing cultural industries’ share in Vietnam’s GDP to 7% by 2023 remains a big challenge.
Legislation and policies governing cultural industries remain insufficient, combined with a lack of crucial policies on resource mobilization. Policies on developing cultural industries are lagging behind market development, as evidenced by ambiguous criteria on the censorship of the content of art and cultural works. Current sanctions are not strong enough to address core problems in the cultural market such as copyright protection.
Less effective use of management tools has prevented the State from becoming an arbitrator for economic entities and harmonizing the interest of producers, distributors, and consumers.
Amid Vietnam’s extensive international integration, many institutions and regulations on cultural industries have not been updated in a timely fashion to meet international norms and standards.
Third, coordination between branches and agencies at all levels and between the state-owned and private sector remains loose. The participation of grassroots level entities in the building of institutions and policies remains symbolic only.
While social organizations are defined as people-controlled entities, many of them are financially dependent on the political system and state agencies. This means their operation is mostly symbolic and passive.
Mechanisms for social participation in crafting, implementing, and evaluating State policies and supervising business performance are not clearly defined.
Many administrative procedures governing civil relationships remain cumbersome, preventing society from performing its role in managing and regulating development.
Fourth, available legislation on resource mobilization indicates that the cultural sector has not yet been prioritized. The sector is facing social barriers and bottlenecks and legislation has failed to keep pace with cultural development.
In principal, the cultural sector enjoys some tax incentives but enforcement varies between laws. Under the 2020 Investment Law, the cultural sector is subject to investment incentives, but these are confined only to the development and promotion of cultural heritage values. The cultural sector is also excluded from the 2020 Law on Public-Private Partnership Investment. These omissions show that the cultural sector has not been fully prioritized and encouraged.
Under the Law on Corporate Income Tax, tax-free incomes include “sponsorships for education, scientific research, culture, art, charity and other social activities in Vietnam.” Tax exemption also applies for “undistributed incomes of establishments making investment in education-training, healthcare and other fields in which private sector investment is encouraged, which are retained for investment in their development in accordance with specialized regulations of laws,” which means the cultural sector is excluded.
Other barriers against investment for cultural development include the cultural sector’s dependence on the state budget (the long-standing legacy of the subsidy period), as well as the misperception that the cultural sector is a money-spending sector.
Fifth, cultural development associated with socio-economic development to meet sustainable development goals has been slowed due to the interruption of target programs.
Preserving and promoting the value of cultural heritage requires enormous resources. Remarkable progress was made in this area thanks to investment channeled through the “2014-2015 National Target Program on Culture” and the “2016-2020 Target Program on Cultural Development.” The termination of the target program in 2021 has made it difficult to mobilize resources to meet the growing demand for cultural development in all localities.
Sixth, investment in culture is not yet commensurate with the role and status of culture in development.
State budget allocation for the cultural sector remains modest and unequally distributed. Only 0.9% of the total state budget allocation in 2022 was reserved for the cultural and information sector, according to National Assembly resolution 40/2021/QH15 dated November 13, 2021. The majority of the amount was for non-business expenditures and the rest was for development investment. As the result, public investment has failed to motivate private investment in the cultural market.
Seventh, shortcomings in policies and mechanisms have resulted in unequal access to State support between the public and private sector.
Shortcomings in the distribution of and access to public resources, as well as ambiguous and unspecific criteria in evaluating and promulgating sponsorship decisions, have hindered creativity and efforts to improve the quality of cultural works, slowing healthy competition in culture and art.
Orientations and solutions
It is essential to resolve weaknesses and remove bottlenecks in institutional enforcement by forming and completing policies which can boost cultural development in the new period.
First, to continue building and completing the relevant legal system to regulate social relationships in the cultural area, as well as generate resources for cultural development. In particular, the Law on Cultural Heritage should be revised to address shortcomings and bottlenecks and harmonize the relationship between preservation and promotion. The Law on Advertising should be amended and supplemented, especially concerning regulations on new advertising means and forms.
A law on performing art, a decree on literature, and policies on digital cultural content should be developed. It is necessary to revise some specialized laws, including the Investment Law, the Law on Public-Private Partnership Investment, and the Law on Corporate Income Tax, as well as the decree on encouraging private investment, to effectively utilize State resources and mobilize social resources for the cultural sector, thus maximizing the sector’s internal resources.
The Law on Management and Use of Public Property should be amended and supplemented to make full use of the cultural sector’s resources including infrastructure, cultural institutions, and cultural assets.
It is necessary to initiate policies on developing talents and human resources with State support, focusing on creators and managers. Policies on State investment for culture should include national and local policies, specialized policies, cultural and art development policies, and policies supporting mass culture.
Second, to continue implementing the national target program on culture. The end of the effective 2014-2015 National Target Program on Culture, despite growing cultural demand in localities, has posed great challenges for cultural development. Therefore, a national master target program to promote culture is sorely needed. In the near future, ministries, branches, localities, and the cultural sector should jointly review in a synchronous and comprehensive manner various cultural issues, including the role and position of culture and the need for investment in the cultural sector. At least 2% of annual total State budget allocation should go to the cultural sector in line with Party guidelines and State policies.
Third, to complete the policy system and update the “National strategy for the development of cultural industries in Vietnam until 2020 with a vision until 2030,” with a focus on improving the cultural sector’s competitiveness and international integration.
Solutions for cultural industries are basically aimed at finalizing the parameters of the legal system, particularly the Competition Law, to create an effective legal framework and ensure fair competition between economic sectors in Vietnam’s cultural market.
It is important to implement a group of solutions aimed at actualizing the cultural market, with priority given to cultural industries having advantages in international integration.
Emphasis should be placed on developing an online cultural market, increasing human resource training, and implementing flexible solutions in personnel management and other fields. It is crucial to develop the cultural sector’s structure with a focus on long-term planning.
Fourth, to develop a set of national indicators on cultural development which will be used to measure, assess, and monitor the cultural sector’s growth and contributions to national development. These indicators will also provide credible data for the building of institutions, policies and intervention programs.
It is essential to raise the awareness of all-level Party organizations and administrations, as well as that of the entire society, of the cultural sector’s role, position, and contributions to national development, and of the need to develop such national indicators.
Fifth, to develop human resources in culture and art.
Measures should be taken to ensure an appropriate personnel structure in terms of age, gender, and work locations. Incentive policies should be rolled out to seek, employ and honor talented and qualified personnel. Preferential treatment should be given to people who have made significant contributions to culture and art or who have created outstanding and influential works. It is necessary to increase salaries or allowances for those working in specialized fields and appropriately award those who make notable achievements in, or contribute greatly to, culture and art.
Sixth, to build and complete institutions and policies focused on boosting technological research and development and digital transformation in the cultural sector. Priority should be given to developing cultural research and synchronized, advanced technological infrastructure to meet the demand of Industry 4.0, building the sector’s statistical system, completing the national database on culture and art, and applying GIS technology in managing, protecting, and promoting cultural heritage values.
International cooperation in cultural and art research should be strengthened, and cultural and art research projects should be further popularized. Other solutions include completing external culture policies, boosting international cultural cooperation and exchange, and proactively accelerating international integration to spread the values of Vietnamese culture worldwide.
(1) Statistics provided by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
(2) The Government’s Resolution 90-CP, dated August 21, 1997, on “Orientation and policy on socializing education, healthcare and cultural activities”; the Government’s Decree 73/1999/NĐ-CP, dated August 19,1999, on “Policies encouraging the socialization of activities in education, healthcare, culture, and sports”; the Government’s Decree 69/2008/NĐ-CP, dated May 30, 2008, on “Policies encouraging the socialization of activities in education, vocational training, healthcare, culture, sports and the environment”; the Government’s Decree 59/2014/NĐ-CP, dated June 16, 2014, on “Admendments and supplements to some provisions of the Government’s Decree 69/2008/NĐ-CP, dated May 30, 2008, on policies encouraging the socialization of activities in education, vocational training, healthcare, culture, sports and the environment”.
(3) Statistics provided by the Training Department of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
This article was published in the Communist Review No. 1004 (December 2022)