Andrew Downie – The Guardian, 2/21/2014
Like millions of other São Paulo residents, Telma Rodrigues spends a large part of her day going to and from work. She hates the commute, and not just because public transport is packed, slow and inefficient. She finds it boring.
Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel. As of last month, the Brazilian government is giving people such as Rodrigues a “cultural coupon” worth $20 a month – enough, the 26-year-old said, to buy a book to enliven her daily ride.
The money, loaded on a magnetic card, is designated for purposes broadly termed cultural – though that could include dance lessons and visits to the circus in addition to books and movie tickets. In a country still battling high levels of poverty, the initiative has won widespread praise as a worthy and yet relatively cheap project. But it has still provoked questions. Is it the state’s job to fund culture? How will poor Brazilians use the money? How do you, or even should you, convince people their money will be better spent on Jules Verne rather than Justin Bieber?