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For an agenda and more funds for Science and Technology

Governments fail to comply with the law and do not pass on the funds in arrears to the FAPs

NegreirosWith the exception of FAPESP, the major state research support foundations (FAPs in the Portuguese acronym) in the country are not receiving the funds provided for in the 1988 Federal Constitution, and later regulated in the state constitutions. Failing to comply with the law hinders the FAPs actions to provide incentive for the development of strategic research, and it is difficult to plan actions in the medium term when the funds are received on an irregular basis.

The Research Support Foundation of the State of Minas Gerais (Fapemig), for example, which completed its fifteenth year this June, expects to receive a budget of R$ 36 million this year. This amount corresponds to less than half the 1% of the Tax on the Circulation of Goods and Services (ICMS) to which it is entitled, according to the constitution of Minas Gerais. Nevertheless, its situation now is better than it was last year, when it received only 33.01% of the total laid down. “In its 15 years of existence, Fapemig has never received the full allocation”, complains Professor Daison Olzany Silva, who chairs the agency.

The situation of the Research Support Foundation of Rio Grande do Sul (Fapergs) is no different. Its president, Sérgio Bampi, foresees that its budget for this year will amount to R$ 18 million, something like 26% of the amount provided for in the state constitution. The same situation is repeated in the northeast. José Carlos Silva Cavalcanti, the president of the Science and Technology Support Foundation of Pernambuco (Facepe) is counting on receiving R$ 10 million by the end of the year, an amount that corresponds to half the allocation provided for in the state constitution, but double what was transferred to it last year.

In Rio de Janeiro, despite the fact that the law is also not complied with, the prospects are optimistic: the Research Support Foundation of Rio de Janeiro (Faperj) should see its allocation leap from the R$ 62 million it received last year to something around R$ 100 million this year. The Foundation’s scientific director, Luis Fernandes, says that Governor Anthony Garotinho has been increasing the allocation substantially since his administration began.

The relationship between the FAPs and the state governments and consequently their financial situation places the following question: why has the model envisaged in the 1988 Constitution not prospered in the states, with the exception of São Paulo? “Because science and technology in São Paulo have political importance and a solid social foundation. The model in São Paulo has a history, and FAPESP has years of success with its policies. This has consolidated its image as an institution”, is the answer given by Carlos Américo Pacheco, the executive secretary of the Ministry of Science and Technology. “Transplanting this same model to other stateshas not been a success”

Monthly transfers
Actually, the 1947 São Paulo Constitution already establishes that the State of São Paulo should set aside a minimum of 0.5% of its income from taxes for a Research Support Foundation. In 1960, an Organic Law created FAPESP, which started to operate only in 1962, when its statutes were approved. Back then, the transfers of funds were annual and, in certain periods, irregular or without proper monetary correction. In 1983, an amend to the São Paulo Constitution ensured that the transfers would be monthly and, in 1989, article 271 of the new Constitution of the State expanded the percentage to 1% of revenues from the ICMS tax. In Minas, Rio Grande do Sul and in Rio de Janeiro, on the contrary, there was no constitutional requirement whatsoever to guarantee the transfer of funds, until the federal constitution was reformed.

In spite of the financial hitches, many research support foundations, Pacheco stresses, have innovated and diversified the range of their activities, opening up new programs, encouraging the demand for business technology and linking universities and companies together. But they are not ready to face the challenge of responding to an ample agenda of science and technology, a task that is carried out in the ambit of the secretariat. “In São Paulo, FAPESP has much more autonomy regarding the system as a whole.

In the other states, this does not happen. There, it is the secretariats that are behind the development of science and technology. And, in my understanding, this is a strategy that has a much more promising agenda than those organized exclusively from the research support foundations”, he adds. Some states have adopted interesting proposals to boost the development of science and technology, outside the institutional design, he says. “But it is fundamental for the state to create a local political basis to sustain its model. He mentions the examples of the s.tates of Ceará, Paraná and Santa Catarina, which have adopted promising, albeit different, development policies, “without necessarily passing through the support foundations”.

As far as the failure to comply with the law that requires funds to be passed on to the foundations is concerned, he believes that “if the federal government manages to send out a signal that it has funds for the states that are willing to carry out important programs, it will be possible to induce changes in the attitude of the state governments.”Carlos Henrique Brito Cruz, FAPESP’s president, underlines Pacheco’s observations. “The federal government can have a fundamental role in encouraging the governments to invest in their Faps. Instead of replacing funds, for example, the federal government ought to encourage investments by the states and make them feasible”, he says.

Another strategy that is being debated by leading figures connected with the research foundations in various states is the strengthening of the Forum of Faps, in defense of their interests. On July 12th, on the eve of the beginning of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the SBPC the Brazilian Society For the Progress of Science, a meeting was scheduled for the representatives of the various Faps, in Salvador, Bahia, to assess the financial and institutional situation of the institutions.

Mobilization for funds
Failure to comply with the law is now mobilizing researchers and rectors of the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) and of other institutions in Minas that, in mid June, were preparing a protest against the government of the state. By the beginning of June, only R$ 7.1 million of the R$ 36 million promised had actually been disbursed to the Fapemig. Similar action was taken by the Commission of Education, Culture, Science and Technology of the Legislative Assembly of Minas Gerais, through the General Procurator of the Public Ministry. Fapemig’s president tells how he was notified, in November 2000, by the Public Prosecutor’s Office to give an explanation about the difference in the transfer of funds to the foundation.

He states that the Court of Public Accounts of the State has noted that compliance with the constitution has only been happening at the level of bookkeeping entries, with the balance of the transfer required by law being completed in the last few days of the year, when there is not enough time to make effective use of the funds. The lack of funds jeopardizes, for example, the program of grants that Fapemig runs. At the moment, 1996 grants for master’s degrees and 744 for doctor’s degrees are being financed, all of them in Brazil. Out of the total, 270 were granted in 2001.

In Rio Grande do Sul, the attempts to call the state government to account for its failure to comply with the law ended up thwarted, states the president of Fapergs. “Our bets are now placed on a political negotiation, based on the presentation of results,” he says. Bampi is relying on the promise made by Governor Olívio Dutra that the government will be making monthly disbursements to the institution, as provided for in the state constitution. “The commitment is being fulfilled, with regular transfers”, he says. The budget of R$ 18 million planned for this year, he rejoices, now represents 33% growth, compared with the volume of financial resources in 2000, which was R$ 13.5 million.

The fact that the constitutional provision in Rio Grande do Sul provides for the transfer of funds on a monthly pace, in twelfths, leaves Fapergs in a rather more comfortable situation than its counterpart in Minas, since it prevents the formal completion of funds at the close of the financial year. Funds coming in regularly does not however mean that the law is being strictly observed. If Faperg’s budget for 2001 reaches the amount forecast by Bampi, it will be the equivalent of 26.86% of the R$ 67 million owed to the Foundation. “In the 11 years that the complementary law that laid down the regulation for the transfer has been in force, no government has ever obeyed it”, Bampi comments. In the last 10 years, the State of Rio Grande do Sul has built up a debt to Fapergs of R$ 251 million. In the same period, the funds actually transferred added up to R$ 80.7 million.

Public debt
“In Pernambuco and in other states, the problem is not the lack of political will, but difficulties resulting from the volume of the public debt”, Facepe’s president ponders. The two-year period of 1998/1999 was particularly problematical. “The transfers were practically halted, and the total budget was a mere R$ 3.69 million”, Cavalcanti recalls.

Since the transfers were regularized, last year, Facepe has consolidated its incentive programs. Among the new projects, he picks out those in the areas of information technology, biotechnology, health and environment. He also mentions the projects related to the Medical Center of the Metropolitan Region of Recife, to the irrigated farming along the São Francisco river, and with the Gypsum Center, in the north of Pernambuco. In 1999, Facepe signed up a partnership with FAPESP for the sequencing of the sugar cane genome, to take it over entirely after one year.

Facepe does not offer any grants for master’s or doctor’s degrees. The Foundation has already succeeded in getting the Federation of Industries of Pernambuco (Fiepe) to sponsor some grants. In the area of scientific initiation, Facepe has an agreement with the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), which now provides 59 of the 150 grants offered in the state.

In Rio de Janeiro, the budget of the Foundation has leapt up from R$ 27.4 million in 1998 to R$ 62 million in 2000. “The moment we are living is unprecedented”, says Fernandes. The increase in resources has made it possible, for example, to put into effect the Program of Emergency Support for the Infrastructure of Research in the State of Rio de Janeiro, with R$ 3.5 million of funds. “We also took on a number of projects under the Program of Support for Scientific and Technological Development (PADCT)”, Fernandes reports.

Strategic ways out
Fapergs has signed up partnerships with private enterprise. “In all the thematic or sectorial projects, we are looking for a contribution of between 20% and 30% from public or private sector companies”, says Bampi. Fapemig is beginning to develop partnerships with the private sector, like the Support Program for Micro and Small Companies, and the induction program for such sectors as minerals, gemstones and jewels and generic medicaments.