ISLAMABAD: Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology Yasmeen Masood on Tuesday complained before a parliamentary committee about the insufficient budget for research and development (R&D).

The official informed National Assembly Standing Committee on Science and Technology that most of the 16 departments under the ministry were without heads and thus not working up to the mandate.

“There is no harmonisation of standards, no ease of doing business, no focused areas of research and disconnect prevails between the government’s research departments and the industry. The biggest problem is insufficient budget that has further been cut,” Ms Masood told the committee which met for the first time after its formation.

The committee discussed budgetary proposals for the ministry relating to the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2019-20.

The meeting was told that the ministry’s PSDP 2018-19 had been reduced from Rs4 billion to Rs1.5bn for the 20 or so ongoing projects.

PSDP 2018-19 for ministry slashed from Rs4bn to Rs1.5bn for 20 ongoing projects, official says

The ministry needed about Rs1.5 billion for the 22 approved projects to continue beyond June 2019, and another Rs2.134bn for the 27 unapproved projects.

The members were informed that due to lack of resources various departments were unable to deliver up to their potential or mandate. Provision of well-qualified trained science teachers and equipment in the labs of public schools is a major issue.

While there is no intellectual property policy, technologies developed by these organisations are not able to compete with those available in the market.

The Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) has not been able to ensure safe drinking water when in urban areas only 30pc of the citizens have access to safe drinking water and in the rural areas the ratio is only 18pc.

Pakistan Council for Research in Renewable Technologies (PCRET) mandated to enhance solar, wind and bio-gas technologies could not compete with Chinese equipment such as solar panels.

Similarly, the National Institute of Electronics (NIE) has been performing poorly with weak links to industries.

Departments that are delivering despite shortage of funds are include the Department of Oceanography that has assisted the government add 50,000 square kilometres of seabed territory besides continuing research under water.

The Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) is also constrained with limited resources but has been endeavouring for promotion of science by offering scholarships to students.

The committee appreciated the efforts made by the ministry and its attached departments.

However, the members lamented the budgetary cuts, especially when countries were advancing based on enhancements in the fields of research and development, and assured of their support.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2019

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