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[MEXICO CITY] President Vicente Fox of Mexico signed on 1 September a decree stating that the government must spend at least one per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) on scientific research.

The decree, which amends an existing law, has been waiting for the president's ratification since last April, when the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approved it. Had Fox waited an extra day to sign it, the increased spending would not have been included in the 2005 national budget.

The delay that followed the April approval in parliament had led scientists, represented by the president of the Mexican Academy of Sciences, Octavio Paredes López, and opposition lawmakers to urge Fox to publish the law. Over recent months, they put pressure on Fox through public letters and a petition signed by 3,700 researchers.

The law took effect on 2 September and states that "the annual amount that the State sets aside for scientific research activities and technological development shall be such that national spending in this sector may not be less than one per cent of the nation's GDP".

Spending will be gradually increased, reaching the one per cent mark by 2006. To meet this target, annual spending will have to rise from the current 22.5 billion pesos (approximately US$1.9 billion) to 70 billion pesos (US$6 billion).

Fox himself established the one per cent target at the beginning of his mandate, in December 2000, as part of his National Development Plan and 'special science and technology programme'.

However, according to the budget prepared by the Ministry of Finance, spending on science and technology was cut from 0.4 per cent to 0.37 per cent this year. Over the past 20 years, Mexico spending on science and technology has not exceeded 0.4 per cent of GDP.

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