Friday, December 1, 2023

Government backs off on budget cuts, cites ‘clerical errors’

The federal government has backed off on two budget cuts announced last week, explaining that they were the result of clerical errors.

President López Obrador told a press conference yesterday that public universities would receive an extra 4 or 5 billion pesos (US $200 to $250 million) next year after several higher education institutes including the National Autonomous University (UNAM) were highly critical of cuts to their budgets.

“We reviewed the budget and found that there was a reduction in the budget for public universities . . . That’s why the decision was taken to correct the error. An adjustment will be made to the government’s operating expenses in relation to the secretariats, government agencies [and] the executive,” he said.

Under the government’s 5.8-trillion-peso (US $288-billion) 2019 Economic Package, presented by Finance Secretary Carlos Urzúa Saturday, UNAM, the Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) and the National Polytechnic University would have seen their budgets cut by 6.2%, 7.7% and 4.7% respectively.

At least two marches had been scheduled for today in Mexico City in protest.

Later yesterday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said that there had also been a “clerical error” in the allocation of funding for Mexico’s overseas consulates but added that it would be fixed.

This year, consulates received 244 million pesos (US $12.3 million) in funding but in the 2019 budget they were only allocated 42 million pesos (US $2.1 million), an 83% reduction.

“We’ll correct it . . . I suppose or we suppose that it is a clerical error because [an] 85% [cut] is almost like disappearing [the consulates] so we’re going to leave [their funding] as it was,” Ebrard told reporters.

The new government, which took office on December 1, also said that a clerical error was to blame for the failure to include in its new education plan a paragraph that describes UNAM as an autonomous learning institute. That triggered claims that the López Obrador administration planned to strip it of autonomy.

“. . . If it’s necessary we’re willing to add the part about autonomy,” the president said.

Source: El Financiero (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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