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Science for Industrial Competitiveness in Brazil

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Brazil Science for Industrial Competitiveness

Science for Industrial Competitiveness
The World Bank (see Glossary) approved a US$72 million sector loan in 1985 (with another US$107 million to be provided by the Brazilian government) to increase the country's competence in selected areas of science and technology. The underlying assumption had been that the government would maintain the historical levels of expenditures for the sector as a whole. This expectation was not fulfilled, and the World Bank's program, called the Program in Support of Scientific and Technological Development (Programa de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico--PADCT), became one of the few sources of support for scientific research, although it did not contribute directly to an improvement in Brazil's industrial competitiveness.

The brief Fernando Collor de Mello presidency (1990-92) called for making science and technology more directly relevant to industrial effectiveness, in an economy that was being deregulated and subjected to international competition. It was also a period of high inflation, economic depression, and political crisis. The main initiatives and proposals, some dating from the previous years, included the continuation of the World Bank sector loan to science and technology; the transformation of Finep into an agency concerned almost exclusively with loans for the development of industrial technology; a sharp reduction in the FNDCT's budget; the end of market protection for the Brazilian computer industry; major reductions in the resources available to the CNPq, which became restricted to the administration of fellowships; proposals to create strong links between universities and the productive sector through "technological parks" and other mechanisms of university-industry cooperation; the closing down, phasing out, or revising of large military projects, such as the Parallel Program and the space program; and the privatization of most publicly owned corporations.

Several measures related to the opening of Brazil's economy were carried out and are still in effect. However, little progress was made in turning the science and technology sector in new directions. Economic depression limited industrial investments, while inflation channeled available resources to the financial markets. The scientific community viewed the Collor government with distrust.

The Itamar Franco government (1992-94), which succeeded Collor de Mello after his impeachment on corruption charges, was unable to overcome the country's runaway inflation until mid-1994 and did not have a chance to devise a science and technology policy. The minister of science and technology, José Israel Vargas, an internationally respected physicist with considerable credibility in Brazil, worked to keep the issues of science and technology high on the government agenda. He sought to pass legislation that would create incentives for technology investments in industry and that would revive Brazil's space program. In addition, he was committed to ensuring the bare minimum of resources for the daily activities of the government's main science and technology agencies. No long-term policy seemed to exist, however.

Data as of April 1997



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