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Parliamentary body laments ‘insignificant’ R&D funds

Updated March 15, 2019

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Share of Research and Development in PSDP for 2018-19 has been reduced from Rs4bn to Rs1.5bn, officials say. — Reuters/File
Share of Research and Development in PSDP for 2018-19 has been reduced from Rs4bn to Rs1.5bn, officials say. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body on Thursday took up the issue of ‘insignificant’ research and development funds of Rs1.4 billion for the entire year out of a total budget of Rs6 trillion.

“There should be a special meeting just to cry over the poor state of funding for research and development,” said Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology Senator Mushtaq Ahmed.

The committee met to discuss the budgetary allocations for the ministry and the utilisation of funds.

PSDP for 2018-19 reduced from Rs4bn to Rs1.5bn, officials say

The committee observed that successive governments have delved more into superfluous and profuse development programmes.

Equal, if not more attention should have been given to research and development for economic growth like most countries that have made advancements after investing in research and development.

Ministry officials said their public sector development programme (PSDP) funds for 2018-19 were reduced from Rs4 billion to Rs1.5 billion for the 20 or so ongoing projects.

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

“The ministry only has funds to work on one of 20 projects in the entire year,” an official said, adding that the ministry had asked the government for at least Rs3.6 billion in the proposed PSDP 2019-20 for another 49 projects.

Members were told that various departments were unable to deliver up to their potential or mandate due to the lack of resources.

The meeting was also told that the lack of well-qualified trained science teachers and equipment in labs in private schools is a major issue.

Insufficient salaries compared with the private sector in the 16 attached departments of the Ministry of Science and Technology such as Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources, National Electronic Institute and Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies to mention a few, lack of incentives, brain drain and weak links with the industry are some of the major issues faced.

The committee was informed of the dire need to invest in human resource development, popularisation and promotion of science, water resources, oceanography, herbal medicines, quality assurance and standards, Halal accreditation, medical devices and health, water conservation and renewable energy such as solar and wind powers.

Members decried the budgetary cuts, especially when countries are advancing based on improvements in the fields of research and development and assured of their support in drawing the premier’s attention towards the matter.

Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2019