The privatization debate in Japan continues. Is it okay for the government to outsource the set up, display, and management of national museums to the private sector in the name of efficiency?:
Editorial/ Market forces in art, Herald Tribune/Asahi: An advisory panel on deregulation within the Cabinet Office says that the work to set up and display exhibits at national ... museums should be included in a "test of market forces." The reform panel argues that such work should ... be offered to competitive bidders to raise efficiency and service quality. ... In response, art leaders ... have come out in opposition to the idea. Their view is that the promotion of art and cultural activities is not compatible with efficiency and that such an idea will lead to a decline in Japan's standard of art and culture. The government's Agency for Cultural Affairs is also opposed to the idea of market-based exhibition work. The government's guiding principle for structural reform is to "leave to the private sector what can be done by the private sector." ... Museums, including fine art museums, collect and preserve cultural artifacts. They do research, plan how best to mount displays and undertake educational efforts to teach citizens of their cultural importance. The advisory panel says planning and setting up exhibitions and promoting cultural activities can be handled by the private sector. ... It also argues that museum management can be done by the private sector, as long as the transition of management is properly handled.
The Agency for Cultural Affairs opposes the panel's suggestion. It points out that governmental cultural affairs agencies handle very valuable art collections. ... The agency contends that maintaining such artworks is inseparable from research and cultural education. The international exchange of art with foreign museums, indispensable for large exhibitions in this country, will become difficult if the exhibitions are administered by private businesses. ... Another question is how quality of service should be evaluated in bids. While cost comparison is easy, quality cannot be measured numerically. No decision has been made on who will evaluate quality. ... The panel is unsatisfied with the performance of existing governmental museums agencies. And the public want more attractive exhibitions on a regular basis and greater dissemination of cultural knowledge to children and students. Art lovers also want museums to offer viewing hours that are more convenient for working people. The debate over whether to farm out some cultural work is a chance for national museums and art museums to take a fresh look at the quality of the job they have done to date.
The threat of privatization should make government agencies more efficient, but I wonder if it actually does.