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[BUENOS AIRES] The Argentinean government has proposed a 20 per cent increase in spending on research and development next year. The proposal – which president Néstor Kirchner presented to Congress last month – would see the science budget rise to US$52 million in 2004.

The money will be used to fund new research projects, raise scientist's wages and bring more researchers into Argentina's aging scientific system.

Government representatives are confident that the parliament will approve the budget well before the deadline of 31 December. Secretary of science Tulio del Bono told SciDev.Net that he expects a positive vote in October "as a clear signal that our representatives understand the value of investing in science and technology to boost growth".

Under the proposal, the Department of Science, Technology and Innovation would receive US$40 million in 2004 – an increase of 90 per cent from US$22 million in 2003. Conicet, the country's main science agency, would see its annual funding increase by US$11.8 million to a total of US$92 million, allowing it to employ 250 new researchers and to fund 300 extra research students.

The new funds would also support research in basic and applied science under the supervision of the National Agency of Scientific and Technological Promotion (ANPCYT). "New research in software and technology in general, genetics, biomedicine, petroleum extraction and agricultural production will be funded, and about 15 million pesos (US$5 million) will be used to buy new equipment for laboratories", says Lino Barañao, head of ANPCYT.

Barañao is optimistic that Congress may even increase science funding above the level proposed by the government. He also says that he has been assured “that the money won't be held back by the Ministry of Economy, as has happened other years".

Kirchner has pledged to double spending on research and development from 0.4 per cent of economic output to 1 per cent by 2006. The government is promoting a national policy to boost the financing of science and education as a way of stimulating growth.