Tourists to contribute to cost of Venice
The Art Newspaper, Anna Somers Cocks. 18 November 2010
VENICE. The 17.5m visitors a year should contribute to funding Venice. That is one of the proposals in the draft of a new Special Law for Venice by Renato Brunetta, minister of public administration and simplification [of government], presented last month after a public consultation exercise.
The town council would receive the income from a charge per person on flights to Marco Polo Tessera airport, long distance trains to Venice and the more than 500 cruise ships sailing into the city every year. There is already a charge on tour buses of E50-E400 per vehicle.
The proposed charge is slightly over one euro, with an expected yield of only E25m a year. There is no stipulation as to how this money should be spent. Since there is no long-term plan for the protection of the city from the waters and the maintenance of its ancient and fragile buildings, neither is there an estimate of the total cost. Last month, mayor Giorgio Orsoni announced that he needed E107m just for buildings, but the price of saving Venice will be much higher. The mobile barriers between the Adriatic and the lagoon currently under construction (estimated completion in 2014) cost over E4bn, with annual maintenance estimated at ?50m; the hydrodynamic balance of the lagoon has to be restored; coastal defences must be reinforced and a solution found to deal with the fact that the mean water level is chronically too high (23cm higher than in 1897) and rising in relationship to the buildings of Venice.
The draft Special Law aims to link the funding of Venice to the economic development of its surrounding territory. It proposes an hypothecated tax on the oil and gas industries in the Veneto region, expected to yield E48m a year. This would be unpopular with those who fear that drilling in the Adriatic will cause further subsidence of the Venice area. Another source of funding would be linked to infrastructure projects such as the proposed "sublagunare", an underground train linking the airport area to Venice, which is a contentious issue. There would be a 1% charge on the income of a proposed deep-water commercial port outside the lagoon connected to a logistic hub at Marghera on the lagoon, which would become a freeport. State-owned buildings in and around Venice would be sold for the benefit of the city. Money would be made available through the annual Finance Bill.
While the draft includes many positive suggestions, such as the elimination of stamp duty for first-time purchasers to reverse the decline in number of permanent residents in Venice, contributions to the restoration of private houses and incentives for universities, it is clear that the generous and reliable funding the city used to receive under the old Special Law of 1984 (E592m in 2002) is not a feature of this new draft law. Will the proposed provisions be enough? Not even Brunetta has the means of telling.