The Omnibus Bill: A Controversial Shift for Argentina’s Science and Education Systems


The new Omnibus Bill proposed in Argentina aims to significantly alter various aspects of the country’s social, economic, environmental, and institutional life. Among these broad strategic changes are profound modifications to the higher education and science and technology systems.

Section 3 of the bill, as currently drafted by the majority, specifies which state agencies cannot be dissolved. However, it permits the Executive branch to amend or abolish certain functions and responsibilities, and to modify structures. In political terms, this opens the door to potentially hollowing out these institutions. This is particularly critical for the national scientific system, the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), and the National Universities.

Before taking office, Javier Milei made clear in TV interviews his intentions towards public universities and CONICET: his aim is to privatize or shut them down. His policies seek to structurally dismantle much of the state apparatus, ignoring whether parts of it are functioning well, have potential, or are strategically important.

Both the decree and the current bill contradict several sections of the National Constitution. Article 76 of the Constitution explicitly prohibits the legislative delegation to the executive branch, except in cases of public emergency and for a limited time. Under a dubious justification of urgency, the bill constructs a scenario of necessity to justify this delegation of powers. If approved, it would allow the President to pass laws without the involvement of the National Congress, sidelining representatives elected to protect a diversity of interests and perspectives.

Article 75, paragraph 19 of the Constitution clearly sets out key aspects of national development, imposing obligations on Congress that must be considered in all its actions. Among these are elements related to personal development, and the advancement and utilization of science and technology.

The same paragraph mandates that the National Congress enact foundational laws for an educational system that reinforces national unity while respecting provincial and local peculiarities. It assigns to the state an inalienable responsibility to promote democratic values, ensuring free and equitable public education, and autonomy for national universities.

The Congress has several important constitutional roles, which have been addressed with reservations and often from narrow-minded, short-sighted perspectives. As a Republic with a separation of powers, Congress, representing a broad diversity of national interests and perspectives, must not neglect nor delegate its roles under dubious circumstances. It is tasked with balancing relationships, promoting development, and fostering equal opportunities.

It is hoped that the immediate financial needs of political funding (exacerbated by cuts and dilution) do not become an excuse to delegate unconstitutional powers to a President intent on dismantling the national education system and scientific establishment. Without careful consideration of societal costs and future implications, the dismantling of public education and science could exacerbate structural issues within the country. While there are many improvements needed in public education and science, particularly in terms of national sustainable and equitable development, social-environmental commitments, and resource management, these institutions have much that is worth preserving and improving. The path forward should focus on defending and enhancing these systems, not destroying what would take immense resources and time to rebuild. Achieving sovereignty is impossible without a robust public system of higher education, quality science, and technology aligned with national interests.