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New Riga concert hall, pay rise to cultural workers – priorities of nominee for Latvian Culture Minister

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Riga City councillor Nauris Puntulis

Candidate for the Latvian Minister of Culture, Nauris Puntulis, listed to the construction of a new national concert hall in Riga and a pay rise to public cultural workers as his top priorities in an interview with BNN news portal.

Nauris Puntulis (National Alliance), currently a member of the Riga City Council, better known as a rock and opera singer, has been named as the candidate for the position of the Latvian Culture Minister after the current minister Dace Melbārde leaves the post to take her seat in the European Parliament this summer.

The construction of a national concert hall in the capital, Riga, has been a hot topic for years as its necessity has been recognised and currently, a decision is expected, where to built it and when to start the works.

Puntulis believes that the decision on building the concert hall has to be made in 2019.

«Concert hall as a symbol of Riga»

Answering the question, when concert-goers in the Latvian capital would be able to enjoy the first event in the national concert hall, Puntulis estimated that it could happen in ten years, at the latest. The construction works are expected to cost around 100 million euros

«I envisage the new national concert hall on the bank of River Daugava. (..) The building has to have immense added value – the architectural value amounting to a symbol of the city. Similarly to the National Opera, which has to be excellent and internationally renowned for its content, our concert hall must also be excellent both visually and content-wise. That’s my vision,» the singer and politician elaborated.

«An outstanding concert hall returns its investment very quickly»

Addressing the concern expressed by members of the public, that there is no need for a concert hall, since it requires massive investment at a time, when there are not sufficient funds for wages, the ministerial candidate argued: «But then there’s no real point in anything really. In the end, the opera is also a luxury. Regarding the approximately eight million euros subsidised annually to the opera for it to ensure its operation, many people would also say: «Let’s use the millions in a different way, because for me personally, there’s no need for the opera and I’ve never been there and I’ll never go. It’s similar with [the views on] the need for a concert hall.»

Puntulis stressed that one can look at the necessity of the concert hall also from the economic point of view. «It has been proven that an outstanding concert hall returns investment very quickly with its added value, first and foremost, with tourism.»

The candidate also said that he wouldn’t want to see the new concert hall to be perceived as something very exclusive or an elite venue. «It would be silly to think that the concert hall would be built for just one orchestra or few exclusive cases, when world-class conductors come to Latvia and then the richest people of Riga could enjoy it.»

Major battle – larger budget for Ministry of Culture

Puntulis said in the interview with the BNN that his other priority he hopes to accomplish in the position of the minister is to raise wages in the field of culture, continuing the efforts by the current Latvian Minister of Culture.

He explained: «My first big battle will be for a larger budget for the Ministry of Culture. I know a specific sum, how much money is needed to increase this wage level to the average wage in the public sector. I’ll go and fight for it. I’m certain that this will be accomplished, otherwise I wouldn’t even start». The politician, however, did not reveal the sum he deems necessary for a possible pay rise.

Wage level – speculation with a person’s vocation

«Everyone needs [a pay rise]. Most of the time, it’s medical workers, teachers and then cultural workers, who are left without it.

We have created and built our country as a nation of culture. Why is this forgotten, when we discuss pay?

There’s the belief: «It’s not that important, they will survive somehow». And a significant reason, why it is like that, is that cultural work is still based on enthusiasm. It shouldn’t be this way,» believes Puntulis.

«You’ll never do work, which isn’t close to your heart, if you won’t receive adequate pay. In the area of culture, however, there’s a slight speculation: he wants to sing anyway and he wants to be an actor anyway. What are his options? He wants it so bad that he’ll agree to do it also for a small pay. This is the reason, why the wage level of the public sector is increased all the time, but the pay to cultural workers is lagging behind,» explained the candidate for the post of the Latvian Minister of Culture, Nauris Puntulis.

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