Monday, July 24, 2017

The Unkindest Cuts

Deforestation in Colombia is set to accelerate with planned budget cuts.
Nobody can dispute that Colombia has huge environmental challenges: Deforestation has accelerated by 44% over the last few years, to 20 hectares erased every hour; illegal drug crops are invading national parks; and the peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas commits the government to stop the advance of the agricultural frontier.

So, what's the government's response?

From Semana magazine: 'The cuts which the environmental
sector will be subjected to in 2018.'
To slash the budgets of an array of environmental entities, including the Instituto Humboldt, the Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (Ideam) and even the National Parks, from 632 billion pesos to 232 billion, or by 63%. That's according to a preliminary budget seen by Semana magazine. Such cuts make Donald Trump's war on the environment appear downright gentle. (I'm not clear on the relationship of these budgets to that of the environmental ministry.)

Incredibly, Minister of the Environment Luis Gilberto Murillo doesn't seem troubled by this financial massacre. "The budget isn't the only indicator of the environmental sector's resources," he said. "Resources are being mobilized like never before."

If only he'd explain where those resources are coming from.

The drastic budget cut - and the lack of an outcry over it - reflects the low priority environmental causes receive here. Minister Murillo may be sharp, capable and sincere, but before this job he had no discernable environmental experience. One suspects he's there in order to have an Afro-Colombian face in the cabinet. His predecessor had been a toy company executive.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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