Brainy Quote of the Day

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Brazil, Reductio Ad Absurdum...

Image Source: See link [2] below
Topics: Commentary, Education, Physics, Research

Scientists in Brazil have protested devastating cuts to science that are threatening to close institutes and funding agencies across the country. Earlier this month about 900 people took to the streets in Rio de Janeiro to protest over budget reductions that have hit science this year. Meanwhile, around 80,000 people in Brazil have signed an online petition, set up in late August, calling on Brazil's president, Michel Temer, to reverse the cuts.

Brazil spent around R$10bn (£2.4bn) on science in 2014, but that figure has been steadily dropping. This year the budget was initially planned to be around R$6bn, but the new government that took over in August 2016 following the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff slashed it even further to R$3.4m.

Major scientific agencies are now starting to run out of money. The National Council for Scientific and Technological Development, for example, may not be able to pay employees and researchers in October, while other major science and research centres such as the National Observatory and the National Institute for Space Research are also facing restrictions on cash flows. [1]

For empirical evidence of the changing mood, consider the chart above, drawn from a survey released in September by Latinobar√≥metro, a Chilean pollster. Every year, it asks people across the region whether they agree with the statement: “Democracy is preferable to any other form of government.” In 2016, just 32 percent of Brazilians agreed – a whopping 22 percentage point decline compared to 2015, by far the largest drop of any country in the survey. Only Guatemala – a country so plagued by violence and poverty that tens of thousands of its people flee every year – registered less support for democracy in 2016 than Brazil. Meanwhile, the number of Brazilians who agree that “I don’t mind a non-democratic government as long as it solves problems” rose to 55 percent – defying a downward trend across Latin America as a whole.

The reasons for this shift are fairly obvious. In the minds of some Brazilians, the worst recession in at least a century and the discovery of billions of dollars in graft at Petrobras and elsewhere have discredited not just the entire political class, but “democracy” as a whole. This may sound like an overreaction – and it is – but remember that Brazil’s democracy is barely 30 years old. Most of that period has been dominated by center-left governments of varying stripes which during the 1990s and 2000s successfully brought tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty, virtually eliminated hunger, and consolidated many democratic institutions. But in a “What have you done for me lately?” kind of world, they are now collectively blamed for unemployment above 11 percent, some of Latin America’s highest taxes, seemingly daily revelations of corruption, and a horrifying 58,000 homicides per year. [2]

“Austria. Well then. G’day, mate! Let’s put another shrimp on the barbie!” — Lloyd, Dumb and Dumber

1. Budget crunch hits Brazilian physics, Henrique Kugler is a science writer based in Brazil, Physics World
2. Brazil’s Authoritarian Side Makes a Comeback, Brian Winter, American Quarterly

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