Brazil's interim president merges sci&tech ministry with communications

Former São Paulo mayor gets appointed for the role; technology industry condemns the decision

Brazil's interim president Michel Temer has announced that the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MCTI) will now merge with the Ministry of Communications (Minicom).

The announcement made yesterday (12) came as part of changes aimed at reducing the number of government departments as well as public spending.

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The new incumbent, Brazil's sixth science and technology minister in less than five years, is Gilberto Kassab, formerly São Paulo mayor.

With the boost of Communications, the new ministry would have a budget of approximately R$3.8bn ($1bn). The battered science and technology department had been suffering repeated budget reductions over the last 12 months, which led to the reduction of personnel as well as the downsizing of flagship programs.

A letter signed by 13 Brazilian technology associations condemns the fusion of the two ministries, adding that the decision is "an artificial measure which will impact developments within science, technology and innovation in the country."

According to the letter, "the missions or the two departments are not compatible" and that while decisions at MCTI were "based on science and technology drivers, with programs developed and evaluated by technical working groups" the Minicom handles its agenda based on "political relations and practices that are a world away from the day to day at the MCTI."

Oddly enough - and on the same day the new minister was appointed - the MCTI launched the National Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation for the period of 2016-2019, which was compiled in cooperation between the academic and business communities. The plan outlines the priorities for the sector to make progress and become more competitive internationally.

A statement by Kassab's team says that the new minister will not talk about any changes to be implemented until the interim president's new overall strategy has been introduced and formalized.