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Brazil opens culture to the masses

Government announces a tax-break program

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian government has announced a tax-break program aimed at helping low-income locals enjoy more cultural pursuits, which is expected to inject some 600 million reals ($315 million) in the local entertainment industry each month.

Following years of debate, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva submitted to Congress a bill creating the cultural voucher program and is pressuring legislators to speed its approval.

Local companies taking part in the program will be entitled to a tax break of 1% on their revenues.

Companies must use that money to buy cultural vouchers from the government, which they must sell on to employees at 10% of the face value.

The program is aimed at workers earning up to $1,200 a month.

The vouchers can be spent in several ways, such as renting DVDs, buying tickets to films, plays and concerts, and buying books, CDs and DVDs.

Those making higher wages can also apply for the vouchers, but will have to pay more than 10% of the face value, according to a sliding scale.

The program is an attempt to open up cultural events to low-income Brazilians. Theatrical tickets are relatively expensive here, and studies show that the vast majority of moviegoers are from the wealthier, upper classes.

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