ICT minister: spending cap bill is 'good for Brazil'

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Brazilian science, technology, innovation and communications minister Gilberto Kassab (pictured) defended a bill that seeks to freeze federal spending for the next 20 years, saying it "will be good for the country."

Kassab spoke to reporters during Futurecom 2016, Latin America's biggest IT and telecom congress, taking place in São Paulo.

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The lower house voted 366 to 111 last week to approve a bill that seeks to limit federal spending in order to restore the country's fiscal health. To become law, the initiative needs to pass through a second vote in the house and then two votes in the senate.

Local and international analysts see the proposed spending cap as one step in the right direction to bring Brazil back to fiscal sustainability.

Critics, however, say the cap would affect investment-demanding and sensitive areas such as education and health.

Recently, part of the science, technology and innovation community joined this criticism. The president of the Brazilian science academy, Luiz Davidovich, was quoted by local media as saying the approval of the bill would be "disastrous" to the scientific and technologic development of the country.

"If we continue like now for another 20 years it will be mortal [for the sector]; we will go back to the status of an extractive colony," local daily O Estado de S. Paulo quoted Davidovich as saying.

Scientists claim the current expenditure on science, technology and innovation is already low for the financing of research activity that is already underway.

Kassab told BNamericas that he is receptive to the concerns, but he argued that the science and tech community is not against the bill and that it "understands" why it has to be approved.

SWITCH-OFF

The minister also said he does not expect any delay in the analog TV signal switch-off in the capital Brasília. The process is scheduled for October 26, but could be postponed if the households do not reach the required level of digital-readiness.

According to the legislation, at least 93% of households in each locality need to be able to access digital TV before the analog signal can be shut down.

Kassab also admitted that there will be a postponement in the city of São Paulo, which is the next in line according to the official analog switch-off timetable.