Friday, 6 April 2012

What's being cut in Spain?

You may have read about budget cuts in Spain. Where do they fall? Over at nada es gratis, a great econ blog (in Spanish), FLORENTINO FELGUEROSO has a great post on "Bread and Circus". R+D is going down; this matters for the hard sciences. In the humanities and social sciences? Not sure. Research grants from the Research/Education/add renaming exercise here Ministry were always so small you needed a microscope to see them... largely independent of the merit-points in the academic evaluation, or the amount one requested. Apparently, the time-honored distribution rule was "cafe para todos" (coffee for all). You see, discrimination based on quality is inappropriate. So, to be honest, this won't make much of a difference to the quality of research that I see going on here; funding was a joke long before. All the serious money comes from the ERC anyway these days, at least in economics. Job training is also being cut, clearly part of a cunning plan in a country where unemployment is pushing towards 25%. And what's going up by 13.6%? Payments to the state's sports agency. No joke. Apparently, they are taking on some new responsibilities, too, so this is not quite comparing like with like, but it is still... pretty depressing.

All of this reminds me of an old joke by American comedian Evan Esar, who said "America believes in education: the average professor earns more money in a year than a professional athlete earns in a whole week." Let's do the numbers for Spain. The country's soccer clubs dominate the international leagues largely by paying what it takes, and buying the best, like Cristiano Ronaldo (Brazil) - current pay $17.06 million -- and Lionel Messi ($ 16 million). Average pay at Barca and Real Madrid is now $ 7 million p.a. Most professors would be hard-pressed to earn €45,000 a year. So the equivalent calculation to Esar's quip is even worse: "Spain believes in education: It pays the average professor more money in a year than a soccer player earns in three days of hard work." 

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