Research in science and technology is absolutely vital for the development of a successful economy yet Sri Lanka currently spends only 0.14% of its GDP on research, the lowest rate in the world, claimed the Minister of science and technology Tissa Vitharana speaking at a forum organized by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka (FCCISL).
By comparison successful Asian economies such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan spend over 3% of their GDP on research. Even this year where the government under the Mahinda Chinthana pledged that spending on research would rise to 1% of GDP less than 0.2% of the budget was allocated for this purpose complained the Minster.
Further he lamented that even of these extremely limited funds only a fraction have been delivered as the treasury is, as a result of the conflict, currently withholding funding that was previously promised for the development of research.
Emphasizing that economic development is inconceivable without a strong domestic science and research base the minister insisted the nations iterated failure to undertake constructive scientific research was, no less than the war, a grave threat to the nation’s aspiration’s for prosperity and progress.
Speaking at the Key Persons forum organized by the FCCISL with the intention of promoting awareness of government policy issues among the business community, the minister said that scientific research must be made commercially viable.
Rather than being academic in focus he insisted the majority of research in Sri Lanka must be devoted to improving the economic situation of the country and focus on developing technologies related to value addition and maximizing profits in the agricultural and light industrial sectors.
While maintaining that the government was working through the national science foundation and village development programs to encourage research at every level of society the Minster claimed that the vast amounts of capital required to develop the infrastructure related to research and a critical lack of funds prevented his ministry from functioning effectively.
Ultimately he said that significant private sector investment and involvement was necessary to establish a viable research base and stressed that future research had to be conducted with a view to producing saleable products.