MADRID (AP) – The Spanish government is offering citizens who turn 18 next year 400 euros ($ 462) to spend on cultural activities. But the sum comes with conditions: beneficiaries cannot use it to buy tickets for bullfights.
The move was one of the politically controversial measures included in the 2022 national budget unveiled by the government on Thursday. The goal is to help Spanish culture-related businesses recover from lost revenue during lockdowns from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government said eligible teens could spend their 400 euros on items such as movie and theater tickets, books and concerts.
Bullfighting companies also wanted to be included, but they had few supporters in the coalition government, made up of the center-left Socialist Party and the left-wing United We Can.
Conservative opposition parties criticized the government for ignoring bullfights. The FundaciÃ³n Toro de Lidia, which represents the bullfighting industry, complained that Spanish law classifies bullfighting among the country’s cultural heritage.
The Ministry of Culture declared in a written memo to the state-run Efe news agency that “whatever our legislation considers culture will not fall under this cultural support”.
Bullfighting has fallen out of favor with much of Spanish society, especially young city dwellers.
The government calculates that nearly half a million people will be eligible for the voucher, which will cost the state around 190 million euros ($ 220 million). France and Italy have taken similar steps to support their cultural sectors during the pandemic.
The budget aims to foster a post-pandemic economic recovery through massive public investment, including with European Union funds. The government is targeting 7% growth in Spain’s gross domestic product next year.
The Bank of Spain, the country’s central bank, expects growth of 6.3% this year and 5.9% next year.
The government predicts that the budget deficit will fall next year to 5% of GDP, from around 8.4% this year, due to increased tax revenues as the economy recovers.
Civil servants must get a 2% pay rise. Old-age pensions will also be increased in line with inflation, with the lowest pensions set to increase by at least 3% next year.
A debate on the draft budget is scheduled for next week in the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of the Spanish parliament, followed by a vote. The reception given to the proposal by lawmakers is seen as a test of the government’s strength.