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May 30, 2017

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Former French minister backs culture spending in hard times

TAIPEI--Investment in the culture sector is important, and the worse the economy is, the more investment in culture is needed, former French Culture Minister Jack Lang said Monday.

Lang, who was invited to Taiwan by the Ministry of Culture, said at a press conference that he helped increase France's cultural budget during his terms as minister to send the message that "culture is an important investment."

Lang held the position of culture minister between 1981 and 1986, and from 1988 to 1992. Under his tenure, the budget of the French Ministry of Culture in 1982 was doubled from NT$13 billion (US$444 million) in 1981, and it continued to increase over the years, reaching around NT$60 billion in 1993.

Taiwan's Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai, who also attended the press conference, asked Lang if strong support by a country's president, a culture minister's own visions and ability to execute policies, as well as a strong economy were all indispensable factors to creating a favorable environment for the investment in culture.

In response, Lang said France's economy was not always great in the past, but he believed more resources should be allocated to the culture sector when there is an economic down cycle.

He mentioned the 1983 Grand Lourve project as an example to the benefits of such investment.

Lang said the project, which led to the creation of the famous glass pyramid, helped boost visitor numbers to the museum from 2 million to 10 million and benefited France's tourism and economic development.

He noted that the plan to renovate and expand the museum and remove the Ministry of Finance out of the building drew much opposition at the time.

Lang and Lung will speak at Eslite's flagship bookstore in Taipei's Xinyi District Oct. 27 at an event held under the banner: "Vision and Practice: A Conversation between Two Culture Ministers."

The former French minister arrived in Taiwan Oct. 21 on an eight-day visit.

During his trip, Lang is also scheduled to visit other cultural centers in Taipei including the National Palace Museum, the Huashan 1914 Creative Park, the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, the National Theater Hall and the National Concert Hall, as well as other cultural institutions around Taiwan.

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