The federal government of Brazil announced a new budget cut of over USD $192 million (R$ 1 billion) in funding for higher education in the country. With this, public universities are again at risk of lacking the funds to pay employees and operating costs.
The contingency (temporary blocking of funds until the government decides whether or not the cut will be final) was announced on September 30, on the eve of the first round of presidential elections, through Decree No. 11,216, which amends Decree No. 10,961, on the execution of the budget of the Ministry of Education (MEC) for this year. Added to the USD$ 257 million in cuts announced between July and August, the contingency in education reaches USD$ 459 million.
In a statement, the National Association of Directors of Federal Institutions of Higher Education (Andifes) points out that the cuts resulted in a USD$ 63 million cut in the amounts available for university expenses.
“This value, if added to the amount that had already been blocked throughout the year, makes a total of R$ 763 million (USD$ 146 million) in amounts withdrawn from federal universities out of the budget that had been approved for this year,” says the organization. For Andifes, this new cut “puts the entire system of universities at risk,” which has already been affected by contingencies made throughout the year.
In a meeting with the Secretary of Higher Education, Wagner Vilas Boas de Souza, Andifes argues that the fact that the contingency affects resources destined for expenses in October, which are already committed, may lead to “very serious consequences and legal developments for federal universities.”
For Andifes, “this limitation established by the Decree, which practically exhausts the possibilities of payments from now on, is unsustainable.” The organization convened a special meeting of its board on October 6 to discuss the context and debate actions and procedures.
On social media, the National Union of Students (UNE) claimed that the “Federal government confiscates the balance of all accounts of the federal institutes and universities, this Wednesday, 05/10/22, and leaves not a cent to pay anything!”
After the post, the hashtag #ConfiscoNaEducação (#EducationConfiscation) appeared among the most popular terms on Twitter.
According to an analysis by the Center for Studies I Am Science released in early September, the Bolsonaro government has recorded a 94% reduction in the investments allocated to federal universities over the last four years. Of the 21 research institutes in the country, 19 have seen their budgets fall between 2019 and 2021.
This article was originally published on Portuguese in Brasil de Fato.