Chile budget 2018: Bachelet promises 1 billion pesos for ‘free education’

Isabel Cocker/The Santiago Times Staff

SANTIAGO – As part of the 2018 government budget, the Department of Education will receive over CLP10 billion (just over US$16 million), an increase of 5.9% from its 2017 budget.

Almost 10% of this will be dedicated to permitting the poorest 60% of students to study for free in universities and technical institutes.

The rise in spending on free education is an increase of 29.4% on this year’s budget, and will benefit some 360 000 students according to Dipres, the Chilean Budget Office.

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El Mercurio reports that the Director of the Department for Education called it a “great expenditure”, one which will be used to improve many national facilities.

Under the new budget, there will also be CLP480 million to increase the salaries of teachers in the municipal areas. During this past year, this sector has already seen increases of up to 30%, a figure which will continue to rise for the next fiscal year.

The full budget, presented on to Congress on Monday by the Budget Director, Sergio Granados, was announced on Sunday by President Bachelet who surprised the public by announcing a 3.9% rise in public spending. She declared that “We have been able to surpass the most complex moments” in the Chilean economy, commenting that “our economy has started on a clear path to recovery”.

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However, she has come under fire from political opponents, including Presidential candidate Sebastián Piñera. In an interview with Radio ADN, the ex-president declared that the proposed figures are “imprudent and irresponsible” as they will leave “a fiscal deficit of over US$7 000 million”. He commented that he considered that budget to be careless, especially due to the change of government in March when the new President will be sworn in.

“It’s as if they were handing over a debt-ridden business, full of deficits, and saying to “just handle it yourselves”. And then they are saying “oh don’t worry, the business is going to do well”. These are great-sounding words, but they are not responsible”, he underlined.