News Analysis: Rome plans to spend 100 mln euros on cultural infrastructure

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-21 02:58:54|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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ROME, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- In an effort to confront its image as a city full of crumbling infrastructure, the Rome municipal government has pledged to spend 100 million euros (115 million U.S. dollars) over three years to improve it.

Analysts say it may not be enough.

The Italian capital remains one of the world's top tourist destinations. But in recent decades, it has lost ground to emerging rivals including Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Istanbul.

Research shows a variety of logistical and cultural factors behind the trend. But, Rome's growing reputation for uncollected trash, roads dotted with potholes, and graffiti-covered buildings has not helped.

"Rome is like an open-air museum," Barbara Cortese, who heads the Juridical Observatory on the Protection of Cultural Heritage at Rome Tre University, told Xinhua. "That makes it even more important that the city's cultural heritage has to be protected."

Cortese noted that monuments, public fountains, and other outdoor sites draw tourists but do not produce revenue to offset maintenance costs.

"It is essential for the city to find a way to maintain these sites for visitors and future generations," Cortese added.

In a statement, the Rome municipal government said it intends to do just that. The city plans to spend 100 million euros (115 million U.S. dollars) over a three-year period ending in 2021 in order to take better care of the city's cultural heritage. The statement called the investment "great news ... after years of inadequate spending."

The budget will be focused entirely on maintaining historical and cultural riches such as Rome's opera house, the mausoleum of the Roman emperor Augustus, and the Ponte Sant' Angelo, one of Rome's most important bridges.

Though he welcomed the new spending, Cesare Pambianchi, who is head of Comfimprese Roma, a small business association, told Xinhua the amount would not resolve all of the city's issues.

"The city has to spend money regularly, every year," said Pambianchi. "It's like personal health. A person has to exercise and watch their diet consistently. It is not enough to do it for a short time."

City leaders said the new plan is designed to compensate for a lack of spending by previous administrations. The city would ostensibly work to preserve the progress made once the spending plan closes in 2021.

But Pambianchi brushed that statement aside.

"I am a true Roman: I am 73 years old and was born at the Trevi Fountain," Pambianchi said, referring to the city's most famous Renaissance fountain. "Every city administration I can remember blamed its problems on previous administrations. But the fact remains, this one has done too little up until now."

The administration of Rome mayor Virginia Raggi has been in power since June 2016.

It is not clear where the cash-strapped city government will draw the money needed for the spending plan.

Both Cortese and Pombianchi said the city should also allot money to promote Rome as a tourist attraction.

Rome advocates have said that a city with as many cultural and historical attractions as Rome requires less promotion than other cities. The analysts disagreed.

"Other cities, like Paris, New York, and Beijing, do great jobs of promoting themselves," Cortese said. "As long as other cities play the game well, Rome has to play the game well."