Bolsonaro cuts universities’ funding for research in health, agribusiness, and other sectors

The announcement was made after the government went back on its decision of blocking higher education budget
Research projects in several sectors will run out of funds. Photo: Mauro Pimentel/AFP

By Felipe Mendes
From Brasil de Fato/Rio de Janeiro (Brasil)*

In a way, Jair Bolsonaro’s (Liberal Party) government changing its decision of blocking the funding budget of universities was a relief for the institutions. However, another decision, published on October 6 in Brazil’s Federal Register, shows that the attack against education continues:123.2 million dollars were blocked from the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MCTI, in Portuguese). This money was to be applied to research activities conducted by public universities.

Dozens of the projects affected by the budget cuts are crucial for the scientific and technological advancement of the country in the most diverse areas. Now, they are canceled once and for all. For instance, 6 million dollars aimed at the “Promotion of Institutional Projects for Research in the Health Sector” 35.4 million dollars. 

Even sectors that the Bolsonaro government says are top priorities will suffer the consequences of the recent decision. The “Promotion of Institutional Projects for Research in the Agribusiness Sector” had a budget cut of more than 5.4 million dollars. The “Promotion of Institutional Projects for Research in Oil and Natural Gas” had a cut of 17.6 million dollars. 

Fernando Cássio, professor at the Federal University of ABC (UFABC, in Portuguese), explains that these recent budget cuts hit the research activities in public universities, which are responsible for about 95% of the scientific and technological works in the country.

“They took [money] from one thing in order to give it to another. They changed their minds about the decision of blocking the budget of universities, but they canceled the MCTI budget. They gave money to the universities to pay energy bills, but they took all the money aimed at research”, he noted.

Fernando Cássio also mentions that the decision damages a broader group of people. This is because the resources targeted by the recent budget cuts were aimed at state universities too, not only federal ones.

“With one hand you take, with the other you give. In this case, specifically, there is the aggravating fact that the budget was canceled. The budget will not come back. The universities have lost the fund. It’s not a temporary suspension of the money [as happened before]; the budget was canceled”, he says. 

“This is more or less the logic of the spending cap: you encourage the different sectors to fight for the fund. It is very serious. This decision continues to [negatively] affect universities,” he says.

What does the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation say? 

Brasil de Fato contacted the Brazilian Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation, but the Ministry did not respond. In case of a response, the story will be updated. 

*Edited by: Thalita Pires e Flávia Chacon/Translated by: Ana Paula Rocha