Brazil Frees US$ 200 Million for Research. Money Was Frozen to Pay Foreign Debts.

Brazil’s government has released US$ 200 million for scientific research, fulfilling a promise to release money it had controversially withheld. The money was announced by vice-president José Alencar on April 26 and will support research projects and fellowships.

The money had previously been allocated for such uses but withheld as part of the ‘contingency funds’ Brazil uses to help maintain a stable economy.

This money has been made available to the National Fund for Science and Technology Development (NFSTD), and represents a 50% boost to the fund’s 2006 budget.

Last year, in response to pressure from the scientific community, the government agreed to reduce the amount it can withhold in its contingency fund by ten per cent each year, from 40 per cent in 2005 to zero by 2009.

Ennio Candotti, president of the Brazilian Association for the Advancement of Science, says that releasing the funding was an important step but that "we will keep pushing for the release of the US$ 1.75 billion frozen previously".

Candotti says that although there is a law forbidding research funds being used in the contingency fund, the Finance Ministry retains a significant part of the NFSTD’s budget to pay foreign debts each year.

In a separate funding boost announced on the same day, US$ 12 million was allocated to the National Council for Science and Technology Development.

The council will use the money to increase the size and number of fellowships it grants. The number of undergraduate scholarships will increase by 16 per cent from 19,000 to 22,000.

According to the Ministry of Science, the 2006 science research budget – which includes money allotted by the NFSTD, the National Council for Science and Technology Development and others – will total US$ 2.95 billion.

This article appeared originally in Science and Development Network – www.scidev.net.

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