Fact Check: Argentina

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Scientific Research Latest Victim of Kirchner Policies

Deteriorating Argentine Economy Respects No Boundaries

Demonstrating once again that really no segment of Argentine society is immune to the destructive economic policies of the Kirchner administration, there are reports that the scientific research community is suffering hemorrhaged budgets, a scarcity of tools and agents (which, in the present economy, cost “double their normal retail value”), and a fear of scientist-flight, thanks to the ever-shrinking economy, a dearth of pesos, and perpetually deteriorating imports and exports.

As Lidia Szczupak, a neuroscientist from the University of Buenos Aires, explained to The Scientist, “the government charges 35 percent over any payment made outside the country, and thus this amount is at the investigator’s expense.”

Plant molecular biologist at Leloir Institute in Buenos Aires, Pablo Cerdán, concurred, elaborating:  “With the restrictions, the importers are not importing things very fast.  Sometimes it takes several months to get things here. It makes our work less productive and takes much more time.”

Referring to the onerous amount of government-imposed time and monetary costs of conducting research, Cerdán continued, “In some instances, we think we should do certain experiments and we don’t because we think it will be hard to do them.”

An Op-ed in the Digital Journal details more of these research-specific ills and their origin:

“These cost-additions were put in place four years ago as part of a new economic policy.  The aim of the policy was to keep pesos within the Argentinian borders.  While this may help to protect home grown and made good from exports, the impact has hit science hard in a country that is not known for developing world-leading scientific instruments of its own.

“In one example, a pack of cell culture wells was said to cost $544.10 when imported; whereas the cost to a scientists working in the U.S. would be have a typical cost of $228.40.

“The impact of the spiraling costs is that some scientists have opted to forego certain costly or time-consuming experiments altogether. This is because the efforts for an item that is central to the project of my research are not worthwhile. This is a shame and the policy appears to be hampering research efforts within the country.

“Given that Argentina has a strong history of scientific advancement in the fields of medicine, nuclear physics, biotechnology, nanotechnology, space and rocket technology, it seems that the time has come for a policy change to avoid scientific stagnation. Another concern is that the current situation could trigger a brain drain, with researchers could leave the country to work elsewhere.”

It is not as if these ills haven’t been loudly and repeatedly predicted by those who understand elementary economics, and who also specifically study President Kirchner’s protectionist policies.

Needless to say, the Argentine government’s official response to these reports has been total denial.  Just as the government routinely ignores or twists all negative economic data to fit its rosy, alternate relato (narrative), it has chosen to simply deny that the country’s self-imposed economic isolation has had any consequences for the scientific community.

Press officer Hernán Bongioanni of the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Productive Innovation, was chosen to deliver the government’s official line: The scientific community “has its own special channels to arrange research equipment and supplies imports, therefore there is no impact of import restrictions for the Argentinian scientific community.”

Feel better? Neither do the Argentine people.