Monday, December 11, 2023

Diana Morant, an admired and little-known minister of great power

Diana Morant (Gandía, 1980), who repeated as Minister of Science and added Universities in the new legislature that has just begun, has remembered on many occasions a message sent to her by her mother when she was appointed Minister: “Your grandfather was a driver. and you now “You have a driver.” The frankness of the revelation shocked some progressives who pretend to believe that those who rule and those who serve are the same, but it reflects a common idea among Morant’s parents’ generation. If you work hard, you will live a better life than your parents and you will give your children opportunities that they did not have. In the same interview in which he told the anecdote of the message, Morant completed his socialist idea of ​​a meritocracy that he now rejects in academic circles: “I want to continue to be the person who grew up in a simple family and , thanks to the efforts of his family, , became a minister. That’s why I want all people to have the same opportunities that I had.”

Morant has a different profile than his predecessors. He is a telecommunications engineer, but he does not work in research nor does he have responsibilities in new companies, like Cristina Garmendia or Carmen Vela. After three years of work experience in the R&D department of a company in his city, Alhena Engineering, in 2011 he became a councilor in the city council of Gandia for PSOE, and in 2015 he became mayor. He arrived as a professional politician in a very technical Ministry to replace Pedro Duque, a minister allergic to politics and with an aura of wisdom that surrounds astronauts.

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During her first weeks as minister, she attracted attention by insisting on her personal story, of a girl from a poor family who was able to reach the top thanks to public education that promoted by socialist governments. Shortly after that, with the first results of the CIS, he began to accept the attitude of the Ministry of Science and Innovation. As in the La 2 documentaries, he is always among the highest rated ministers, but he is the least known, according to the survey data. Although it is believed that his appointment will serve as a platform to later run for the presidency of the Valencian Generalitat, he is in the ministry where it is most difficult to do politics to be seen on television.

One of the sources consulted for this profile rated him as “politically adept.” “He has that magnetism that good politicians have and that ability to remember faces and names so that everyone feels recognized,” he explained. In his first term in Gandia, he was able to sit in power despite the second with almost half the number of PP councilors, agreeing with other groups in the city council. That negotiation skill helped him unblock the reform of the Science Law and approve it without votes against Congress, one of his achievements in these two years.

This reform, which creates some types of stronger contracts for researchers and technologists, causes it to receive a positive assessment from associations such as FJI Precarios. “The deal is better and more productive than the Ministry of Universities and the time of Pedro Duque,” said Francisco Palazón, spokesperson of the Federation of Young Researchers (FJI). One of the keys to this good treatment of researchers is the role of the Secretary General of Research, Raquel Yotti, former director of the Carlos III Institute, the institution that finances biomedical research in Spain, and on which Morant relies to increase their deficit . of experience and technical knowledge of the matter.

Boosted by European money from post-covid recovery plans, the R&D&i budget grew by 60% in 2021, with Duque leading the ministry. The record figure was surpassed a year ago and Morant can boast of approving the largest budget for science and innovation in the history of Spain. As has happened on other occasions, this sudden increase may turn into frustration and distrust if, when the European supplement disappears, the deficits return. From Science and Innovation they recognized that avoiding or reducing this backward step is one of their challenges for the next legislature.

The abundance provided by European funds is behind, according to almost all the sources consulted, the good image that Morant has, in addition to the aforementioned capacity for dialogue and negotiation. However, in the two areas that the minister has to manage, there is a favorite. Science, which is funded mainly by public subsidies, is closer to political sensitivity than innovation, which takes place in the private sphere. “He does not like to have lunch or dinner with people from private companies to socialize,” said one of the people consulted.

This coldness is noticed by these business representatives, who, although satisfied with the rain of money, believe that the European funds should have been used to modernize the system and bet on new companies that can’ g will change the science of technological applications made in Spain. “Coffee is given to everyone, without prioritizing the new sectors that support the system and contribute when we don’t have money in Europe to distribute,” complained a business representative. “In an era with greater investment they can be more creative, in issues such as new public procurement or sandboxes (experimental environments for the development of new business models), but they follow the path and other ministries take the lead,” explained another innovation expert. “But the world of science is very combative, and innovations, as long as they are not harmful, do not write tribunes complaining,” he justified.

There was a moment in his previous mandate, which was mentioned by many attendees, who fought in a place that other types of ministers are used to. On June 20 of this year, before the election, Morant participated in the presentation of the report of Asebio (Spanish Association of Biocompanies), presenting data on the biotechnology industry in Spain. After highlighting the achievements of his Government, something common, he warned: “Today I have to tell you that all this is at risk, I am afraid of the establishment and not only me.” And he begins to give reasons why Núñez Feijóo and the Popular Party are a danger to science and innovation. “The speech was very bad, he made a full political speech in a place where science is usually discussed, as if he was a minister from another branch or a mayor,” said one of those present. “It was a brutal mistake, not understanding where I was,” he said.

Two years later, Morant remains the least known minister in Spain (apart from Héctor Gómez, of Industry, who was appointed before the election), but also one of the most appreciated. “I would be happy to have more focus, but I am afraid of making mistakes and being conservative; He bit his tongue several times to avoid entering the pond,” said a person close to him. “He is a friendly face with money and friendly reforms for science, he fell better than someone outside the system who could have fallen a priori,” said a person who very connected to the system.

Its continuity shows that President Pedro Sánchez is also satisfied with his work. For the next legislature, he must fight to maintain the financing of his Ministry, approve a space law and reduce the bureaucracy that suffocates scientists seeking funding for their projects. It also adds to the challenges of the Universities, where their biggest challenge is to convince the regional governments to finance the LOSU (Organic Law of the University System), reports Elisa Silió. The first calculations show that 3.1 billion more are needed per year so that the standard can be used (giving dignity to the staff, attracting talent and means of investigation). In addition, a new organization of departments, a controversial issue, was even presented as a draft decree of the king, but was paralyzed by the elections. Morant will continue to fly low, but surely, although perhaps more attractive challenges for a professional politician will come in the future.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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