Posted on behalf of Anna Petherick
Only a few months ago Brazilian scientists were brimming with optimism for the future of research — and under their former and famously charismatic president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, science and technology blossomed. They expected the same from Lula’s replacement, Dilma Rousseff. She took office in January, promising to continue Lula’s policies.
But late last week, Rousseff vetoed the 2011 budget for the Ministry of Science and Technology. The R$7.4 billion ($4.4 billion) total, which had already been approved by Congress, was slashed to R$6.4 billion ($3.84 billion). There has been no formal announcement about where the money will be cut, but a report in Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo [subscription only] claims that R$610 million ($366 million) will come from the ministry’s “investments” and R$354 million ($213 million) from money earmarked for “expenses”.
So where does this leave Brazilian science? Oddly perhaps, top science administrators are not terribly concerned.
Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Defense, have also been asked to tighten their belts to a similar extent while the government tries to reduce the overall approved budget by R$50 billion ($30.02 billion) this year (see AFP report).
“The government is concerned about inflation, which is a very good thing to be concerned about, so I think scientists can understand some local restrictions.” says Jacob Palis, president of the Brazilian Academy of Science. “I also believe Dilma Rousseff is absolutely committed to increasing spending on R&D and that the government will find a way to go around these cuts. We may have some good news about that soon.”
He adds that Brazil is still aiming to increase R&D spending from its current level of 1.2-1.3% of GDP, to 1.55% over the next four years.
Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of São Paulo funding agency FAPESP, puts the cuts down to the tendency of Brazilian governments to spend heavily in the run up to presidential elections, and the subsequent need to make some fiscal adjustments afterwards.
Is he at all worried that this might reveal a flagging enthusiasm for science in Brazil? “No, I think the federal government values science,” he says.