Another tense week as the education budget is finally approved in the Chamber of Deputies by a narrow margin.
This week saw the education budget for 2012 finally approved by Congress following a successful, but close, vote in the Chamber of Deputies. The budget was approved on Tuesday with 58 votes in favour and 55 against.
Earlier in the week it had looked as if the Government may fail to get the necessary votes required as the three deputies from the non-aligned Partido Regionalista de Los Independientes (Independent Regionalist Party – PRI) came out against the budget. Speaking on behalf of the party, Alejandra Sepúlveda described the offer as ‘absolutely insufficient’.
In the end, however, votes from the independents, Pedro Velásquez and Miodrag Marinovic, and René Alinco of the non-aligned Partido Progresista (Progressive Party- PRO) enabled the budget to be passed. As is also the case in the Senate, the governing Alianza coalition lacks a majority in the Chamber of Deputies so had to seek the support of opposition or independent deputies in order to pass bills. The deadline for approval was Wednesday 30 November.
Given the controversy which surrounds education reform in Chile, it is little surprise that the independents who voted in support of the budget have been accused of ‘betraying the students’. René Alinco was, however, quick to respond to this criticism and argued that the fault for the unrest lay with the opposition Concertación alliance who left the fundamentals of the education system virtually untouched during their two decades in power.
The news of the budget being passed by the lower house was greeted with relieved hugs by the ministerial team, consisting of Felipe Bulnes, Cristián Larroulet and Felipe Larraín, along with subsecretary Claudio Alvarado and the director of the budget, Rossana Costa, who had been forced to work so hard to get the education budget approved.
The prolonged battle to pass a part of the budget, and the lack of consensus over its contents, represent an unprecedented event in the democratic era in Chile. An editorial in El Mostrador argued that this could ‘mark a before and an after in the consensus [which characterises Chilean politics] with regards to fiscal policy [and] public spending.’