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ARGENTINA | 16-08-2023 16:15

Javier Milei confirms he would close CONICET scientific research council

Shock winner of the PASO primaries insists that if he gets to power he will strongly adjust state spending, shuttering agencies and government bodies.

La Libertad Avanza presidential candidate Javier Milei has confirmed he intends to close the CONICET scientific research institute if elected in October.

Speaking in an interview with the La Nación+ television channel, the libertarian lawmaker said he would implement fierce spending cuts as president. In a move that earned him fierce criticism from Argentina's government, opposition coalition and the scientific community, Milei confirmed that Argentina's CONICET Scientific and Technical Research Council was in his sights.

Milei, who won the most votes of any candidate in last weekend's national presidential primary, responded to questioning about the institute by saying it scientific research and development must be “in the hands of the private sector.”

CONICET should be eliminated, just like the Science, Innovation & Technology Ministry, said Milei.

"Let them earn money by serving their fellow man with goods of better quality at a better price. What’s their productivity? What have they generated? In the sweat of your face shalt thou eat bread” Milei declared.

The remarks met with instant criticism from the government.

Science, Innovation & Technology Minister Daniel Filmus responded by highlighting that in 2022 “the knowledge economy came in third in Argentine exports. In all developed countries in the world investment in Science and Technology is a priority."

“A step back in these areas entails a great loss for the whole society,” the official warned.

Members of the scientific community also hit back.

Scientist Sandra Pitta, a supporter of Juntos por el Cambio opposition coalition, defended the research institute and slammed Milei's proposals.

Although she regretted the “politicisation of the body” in recent years, she underlined that the libertarian deputy “does not realise what a scientific system means.”

CONICET workers responded forecefully, issuing a statement arguing that “science does not progress in the hands of the private sector."

“There are some very important developments that take decades of state investment to then switch to private development,” it said.

 “The best example is the COVID vaccine: the investment to develop it did not come from Pfizer or AstraZeneca, but from the different states. For the private sector, that investment was huge and it would not have recovered. The medical, space and nuclear industries work like this: without state development they would not exist. And that is the case all over the world, no relevant country does away with public investment in science and technology." it continued.

It concluded: "The scientific system in Argentina has many problems and we have reported them, but closing down CONICET or privatising it is not the solution. Without any scientific and technological development, Argentina can only deepen its specialisation as a primary producer, and that is a country that can only sustain half its population or less. We need to rethink the CONICET on the basis of a new project for a country, joining the world by exporting high-tech goods."

 

– TIMES/NA

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