Faced with the growing possibility of a national university strike, the government on Tuesday moved to approve the distribution of new funds to Colombia’s public universities.
President Juan Manuel Santos signed a resolution Tuesday authorizing what he called “important” investments in 59 public universities across Colombia.
The resolution calls for $750 million in university budget increases over the course of the next three years, the first $110 million of which will be distributed in the coming weeks.
The move comes as the government stares down the looming possibility of another major university strike, the second, potentially, in the past year.
The government did not specify a payment plan for delivering the rest of the additional funding, nor how it will be put to use.
The money comes from a 2012 tax-initiative that, in theory, funnels revenue from high-profit business sectors like mining and finance into public programs as a way of paying down government debt. The program, heralded as a job-creation engine by the national government, has been criticized by many, including representatives of the national student union (MANE), who say it creates tax-loopholes that incentivize large companies to shift their workforce to more tenuous employment contracts and has provided an estimated $3 billion in tax breaks already to corporate businesses.
Representatives from the MANE could not be reached for comment, but a proposal released last week widely surpasses the measures outlined Tuesday by the government. The student body asked for a $2.5 billion dollar budget increase over the next fiscal year to help reduce the growing $5 billion deficit Colombia’s public higher education system is operating under. Tuesday, the government allocated less than a third of what the MANE claims is necessary, over a period three times as long.
The MANE, which has been active in organizing anti-government protests, has yet to announce a national strike. In prior interviews with Colombia Reports, representatives are saying they are waiting to see how protests in other parts of the country play out, and for the expected release of the national government’s 2014 education budget later this fall.
- Gobierno firma resolucion por la que se distribuyen recursos a 59 universidades publicas (Presidential website)
- Interview with Amaury Nunez