January 18, 2021

The Government of Sanchez uses the same trick as the PP to inflate investment in science | Science

The Government of Sanchez uses the same trick as the PP to inflate investment in science | Science



The Government of Pedro Sanchez has used the same trick to inflate the figures of investment in science that criticized the PSOE when it was in the opposition. The budget agreement between the Government and Podemos reflects an increase in investment in civil research (R + D + i) of 6.7% for 2019 compared to the previous year. It is a total of 273 million of euros more than, according to the document, will be used in part to finance new research projects and more contracts for young researchers.

45% of all this amount (123 million euros) are loans, while the rest, 150 million, will be subsidies, as confirmed by this newspaper sources of the Ministry of Finance directed by María Jesús Montero. The difference is important, because only those 150 million euros compute for the ceiling of expenditure, explained the minister last Friday. The other 123 million euros in loans that have to be repaid. They appear on paper, but probably only a small fraction is spent.

The figures suppose a difficulty for Pedro Duque, minister of Science, Innovation and Universities "The final amounts still are negotiating and it is possible that finally there are more than 150 million euros in subsidies", explains a spokesman of the ministry. "The minister [Pedro Duque] does not want the final increase to include Chapter 8 funds [préstamos reembolsables]"they add, this negotiation can be extended until early or mid-November.

Loans (chapter 8 of the Budgets) are not very useful for financing public research, as shown by the low execution rate of these items every year. In 2017 the Government only spent three out of 10 euros budgeted for R & D & i. Almost all of the 3,259 million euros that were not spent were credits that were not granted and did not get out of state coffers, a historical minimum since the beginning of the series in 2000, according to the Cotec Foundation.

"It is not serious to announce a budget increase in science of 6.7% when almost half of that increase would go to credit," says Jorge Barrero, general director of this body dedicated to the promotion of R & D & I. "It is a phantom rise that perpetuates the budget trompe l'oeil of recent years. Before adding a single euro to the credit line, they should explain how the nearly 3,000 million euros that the previous government tried to make up their cuts with and that never went to invest in science will be executed. It's a shame, because a rise of 150 million in the chapter of subsidies is a good enough news not to spoil it with that aesthetic, useless and deceptive retouch, "he says.

The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, yesterday highlighted the increase of 6.7% in science and R + D + i in the budgets for 2019 during an event at the Renault Group factory in Valladolid. In 2017, when he was in opposition, his party criticized the "makeup" carried out by the Government of Mariano Rajoy on the R & D & I budgets by increasing the item related to the credits that "usually remains unfinished".

The budget plan for 2019 that the Government will send to the European Union does not detail the rise of 273 million euros agreed with Podemos. In the chapter that links the budget to compliance with the specific recommendations of the union, only data from the 2018 budget are offered. These include a total expenditure on civil R & D of 6,366 million, 5.4% more than in 2017. Total non-financial budget (grants) amounts to € 2,629 million in 2018, 7.1% more than in 2017. The total financial budget (repayable loans) is € 3,738 million (+ 4.2% compared to 2017).

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