The budget proposed by the federal government for 2022 is insufficient to replace the sequence of cuts that federal universities have been facing in Brazil. This is the assessment of Rogério Faleiros, dean of Planning and Institutional Development at the Federal University of Espírito Santo (Ufes), who this year lost almost a fifth of the budget, compared to 2020.
The Annual Budget Bill (PLOA 2022) was sent by the Jair Bolsonaro government (no party) to the National Congress on the 31st.
“Roughly, considering assistance, capital and costing, we had a 16% recovery [no PLOA 2022]. It so happens that since 2015 we have been suffering budget losses. So this recovery to 2020 levels is still far below what we had in the past”, analyzes the dean.
He considers that his reading of the document is still preliminary, and that he intends to follow the developments on the project in the coming weeks.
“The second aspect is that we will have inflationary losses for 2022, and this erodes our viability. Simply resetting the budget to 2020 levels is not enough”, he adds.
This year, the federal allocation for discretionary spending reached the lowest level since 2004 – when the number of students was half of the current number. To give you an idea, in 2011 the budget for federal institutions reached 12 billion. In 2021, it was BRL 4.3 billion, most of which was blocked until April.
When approved, the PLOA 2021 established a contingency of around 60% of the budget. The Annual Budget Law (LOA) was approved on April 22 and, since then, these resources have been gradually unfrozen.
In May, the Ufes rectory even said that it could interrupt the institution’s operations due to cuts and restrictions.
“As the LOA took time to be approved, we worked [até 22 de abril] under the extraordinary budget execution regime. We received 1/18 of our budget per month, which made it very difficult at the beginning of the year”, reports the dean Rogério Faleiros.
The exception was the amounts related to student assistance, which were fully transferred.
“About 20 days ago, we had the release of R$7.9 million, which was the last contingent installment”, he says.
“The big problem is that, in 2021, we had a budget reduction of around 18%. So, this brought many difficulties for the institution, even with the entire budget approved.”
The impoverishment of the population during the pandemic made efforts to prevent student dropouts to be redoubled.
“We worked with a budget, rounding off, one-fifth smaller than in 2020, precisely at a time of growing needs related to digital inclusion. And we had many difficulties from the point of view of assistance. These are students who need help, support, so they don’t have to leave the university to help support their families”, he says.
“We had a waiting list of 1,045 students, which will be included now, and we are opening a notice for another 1,200 students in our social assistance policy.”
The survival of Ufes was only possible, according to the dean, through a series of actions taken even before the pandemic.
“In 2018 we installed, for example, solar energy panels. We also adopted a protocol to reduce expenses with paper, printer, etc. It is these adjustments that give us some possibility of maintaining our activities until the end of the year”, he says.
Contrary to popular belief, remote teaching does not only mean savings for public universities.
“We contracted three platforms for ebooks at an annual cost of R$ 840 thousand. It is a cost that would not exist in person. We also created a modality of digital assistance, for more than 3,500 students, who received around R$ 1,400 each to subsidize the acquisition of computers”, recalls the dean.
“But if we were working in person, we would have many difficulties”, adds Faleiros.
The dean of Ufes draws attention to spending on cleaning, water, energy, telephone and the adaptation of spaces to prevent the spread of covid-19, reinforcing the argument that the budget foreseen for universities in 2022 is insufficient.
O Brazil in fact presented the questions to the Ministry of Education (MEC), which stated that “it will not comment at the moment, considering that the Budget Law Project of 2022 is in progress in the National Congress and may still undergo changes proposed by parliamentarians.”
Edition: Anelize Moreira