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[MEXICO CITY] The Mexican Academy of Sciences (AMC) and the country’s Science and Technology Advisory Forum are proposing to levy a new tax on alcohol and tobacco and to use the revenues to fund science and technology research projects.

Although these proposals are by no means new, they have never before been prepared as a 'financial package' in part of the congressional discussions on tax reforms, which will be analysed over the coming months by the new legislators elected in July.

Jaime Parada, director general of Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) is to submit a proposal to increase tax incentives by 750 million pesos (US$75 million) for companies that invest in science and technology.

This tax package is expected to increase the budget for the sector by an additional 12 billion pesos (US$1.2 billion) in 2004.

Mexico’s current annual spending on science is 23 billion pesos (US$2.3 billion), the equivalent of 0.37 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). This is far from the figure of 1 per cent promised by the administration of president Vicente Fox by 2006.

The new funds raised will be in addition to research funding that Conacyt receives from government offices, public bodies and state governments.

"However, the financial package for scientific funding will only be viable if it is approved as a part of a comprehensive tax reform for the whole country,” said Parada.

"We are considering all the possible options,” said José Antonio De la Peña, president of the AMC. But he does not believe that approval of the tax reform is assured. “If this is not possible, there will be no significant increase for science, only some minor increases,” he says.

For the first time in Mexico, scientists and Conacyt officials are working together to submit a financing programme for Mexican science and technology to the country’s new lower house of Congress.

They aim to make each of the 500 members of congress who took office on 1 September aware of the importance of science for the development of the country.

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