ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology on Tuesday recommended increasing the annual budget of the ministry and the 16 departments working under it.

The committee echoed the Ministry of Science and Technology’s concerns over the alarmingly low 0.00025pc of the gross domestic product (GDP) spent on this sector and called for reforms and bringing the percentage to four.

The committee, which met for a briefing on the performance of the Ministry of Science and Technology and its departments, was told that for the year 2017-18 the ministry was given a total of Rs6.394 billion in the head of non-development budget and Rs2.497bn as development budget.

The government’s reluctance to fund research and development seems to also continue in 2018-19 budget as it has allocated about Rs2.7bn, about Rs870m more than that of last year.

Says allocations for ministry should be increased from the current 0.00025pc to 4pc of GDP

Last year, the then federal minister for science and technology Rana Tanveer Hussein had conceded that scientific research and development was not a priority for the government.

The ministry of science has complained to successive governments about the lack of funding.

The last time sufficient funds were released for research purposes was in 2007.

According to the ministry officials, politicians did not understand the fact that research was a capital intensive process and results took years to show unlike the physical infrastructure that was visible in a predictable time.

Nonetheless, the committee observed that Pakistan was today facing acute water scarcity, energy shortage and drastic climatic changes and if urgent measures were not taken the citizens could face disastrous consequences.

Chairman of the committee Mushtaq Ahmed remarked that success in science and technology had proved to be a decisive factor in progress and development of many nations.

He believed that despite being a nuclear state, Pakistan was facing shortfall in electricity and had been declared a water scarce country. Members were also of the view that the ministry and its attached departments should help spread awareness of new technologies available for saving water and preserving other resources.

The members called for developing more opportunities for spotting and grooming young scientists from educational institutions and having a 10-year plan for the purpose as well as a 10-year plan for reforms in the science and technology sector.

The committee also directed the ministry to give details of all those edible products that were being imported and whether they were Halal or not.

The meeting called for having a strategy to avoid misuse of 60pc water in the agriculture sector to make use of the excessive rainwater and make seawater usable through desalination and reverse osmosis.

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2018