Brazil from BRIC to chic

Nieuws | de redactie
27 september 2011 | Close to its eastern shore Brazil found oil worth billions. Scientists and universities now petition the government to direct 30% of future revenues towards education and 7% to science. Already a €938 million program is set up to boost public higher education.

Within the past 5 years, Brazil has discovered oil fieldscontaining over 80 billion barrels close to its eastern shore. 15%of the revenues from exploiting these resources will go to thegovernment. Brazil’s research and higher education community nowlaunched a petitiondemanding a guaranteed piece of this pie to create a true knowledgeeconomy in the developing country.

30% for education, 7% for science

According to this plan, 30% of future royalty revenues would beallocated to education and 7% to science. The initiative which isbacked by the Brazilian science minister, Aloizio Mercadante, hasso far collected 20.000 signatures. Their goal is to have 1 millionpeople sign the petition by 5 October.

On this day, the lower house of parliament will vote onlegislation determining the future distribution of oil royaltyrevenues. The current draft only lays out how the money will beshared between the federal government and individual states.

€891 billion over the next 40 years

The Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC)estimates that with the newly found oil fields the government willhave an additional €891 billion at hand for the next 40 years.Helena Nader, president of the SBPC, says: “It’s time for usto decide whether we want to be forever attached to our colonialpast, or to look at promising years to come.” Jacob Palis,mathematician at the Brazilian Academy of Sciences(ABC), added, that “it’s weird to think that we are theseventh economy in the world but only [on the] thirteenth place forscientific production.”

This approach looks a lot like the long term strategy of Norway.Here too major national revenues from oil and gas have beendirected towards long term investments in economic, cultural andsocial innovation and well-being, instead of shorter term socialbenefits and tax breaks. This has led to a strong developmentof Norway’s higher education sector, its knowledge economy andoverall prosperity.

Expanding public higher education sector

Especially in the past few years Brazil started recognizing theneed to catch up in innovation and education. Recently, Brazilannounced a scholarshipprogram funding 100.000 students to go abroad and study atexcellent universities.

Students at home will also benefit from a plan to invest €938million into the public university system. With the help of thesefresh funds, the Brazilian government wants to establish 4 newpublic universities. It also seeks to support 47 already existingcampuses and to create 250.000 additional student places until2014.

Particularly low-income areas like Bahia, Ceara and Para in thenorthern parts of Brazil will be targeted to widen access to highereducation. Due to capacity shortages at public universities,approximately 77% of all students attend private institutions.

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