[MEXICO CITY] Mexican President Vicente Fox, who came into office in 2000 promising to boost his country's scientific efforts, is backing a proposal to cut the country’s science and technology budget by almost 4 per cent, or US$91 million, in 2004.
The move would be part of his government's efforts to address the country's current economic difficulties.
Under the proposal, the budget for the CONACYT, the country’s main agency for science and technology, would be reduced by US$50 million, or 8 per cent. Overall the move would see Mexico’s investment in this area fall from 0.42 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year to 0.37 per cent.
The country’s scientific community is protesting strongly about the proposal, which appears to conflict with Fox’s pledge in his election campaign to increase spending on science and technology to one per cent of GDP by 2006.
“Expectations of growth in this sector have been cancelled, in a way that is very worrying”, says Rene Drucker Colin, coordinator of scientific research at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), which conducts 40 per cent of the country’s scientific research.
According to the Mexican newspaper La Reforma, four Nobel prize winners, who were in Mexico to attend a meeting of the InterAcademyPanel, a body that brings together morfe than 80 bscientific academies from around the world, have added their opposition to the proposed budget cut.
Chinese Nobel laureate Yuan Tseh Lee, physicist Leon Lederman, and atmospheric chemists Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, all requested that the proposal be withdrawn. They also urged Mexico and all developing countries to invest more in science and technology to boost their development.
The Mexican congress will vote on the proposal by the end of December. And Julio César Córdova, president of the science and technology commission of the house of deputies, is confident that it will be rejected.
But the government argues that the budget reductions are needed as part of a wider package of cuts in public spending intended to address the country's economic problems.