Chile Proposes $4 Billion Education Fund as Response to Protests
Chile’s government plans to create a $4 billion education fund, partly financed from copper revenue, to improve access to education, President Sebastian Pinera said.
Pinera plans to increase scholarships and grants as part of a series of measures unveiled in a televised address to the nation last night.
The announcement follows demonstrations by tens of thousands of students in Santiago last week, pushing for increased funding for higher education and changes to university entrance requirements, according a statement on the University of Chile student federation website.
“This great mission of improving Chile’s education requires an enormous financial effort,” said Pinera, flanked by Education Minister Joaquin Lavin. “As a result we’re proposing the creation of a $4 billion education fund.”
The fund would “complement fiscal budget resources and would be made up from resources of the public treasury, the economic and social stabilization fund, copper profits and other means,” he said. Chile is the world’s biggest copper producer.
Pinera said a move to a state-only education system would be a mistake.
The student unrest raises questions about the strength of Pinera’s leadership and put pressure on the president to increase funding, Risa Grais-Targow, Latin America associate at Eurasia Group, said.
“Pinera is really in a tough position right now,” she said in a telephone interview before yesterday’s speech. “To the extent that he’s politically weaker, he doesn’t have much room to strong arm anything.”
Pinera’s approval rating has declined from a high of 63 percent in October, when the government rescued 33 trapped miners in the country’s north, to 36 percent in May, according to Santiago-based pollster Adimark GfK.
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