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Lawmaker laments budget

Update: June, 09/2012 - 08:06

R&D investment represents only 0.4 per cent of national GDP, NA Committee for Science, Technology and Environment Chairman Phan Xuan Dung told Khoa hoc va Doi song (Science & Life) newspaper.

Many scientists have complained about the Government's meagre investment in research and development, so why did the Ministry of Science and Technology last year return nearly VND1 billion ($49,000) to the State budget?

The reason is very simple: the cumbersome budgeting system. We're now in June, but the Ministry of Science and Technology has not yet received a single dong to implement any scientific programmes or projects approved by authorised agencies. How can scientists work in such an environment? And the return of money to the State coffer is almost inevitable for next year as well.

What do you mean?

Returning money to the State budget does not mean that scientists don't need money for research. I would say that the demand is huge. Yet the mechanism for verifying the expenditures is extremely complicated. The State budget reserved for science and technology development is very small in our country compared to developed countries, just 0.4 per cent of GDP as opposed to 3-4 per cent.

A budget increase for research and development is a necessity. However, what's more important is how to use the money in the most efficient way and to encourage scientists engage more in R&D.

What's the bottleneck in the disbursement of funds?

The delay is not on the side of the scientists. It is in the financial mechanism. All scientific managers want more investment in R&D and a better financial mechanism to enable them to use resources more efficiently.

If the budget allocation increases, will the money be better disbursed?

Financial demands are always enormous, yet the existing fiscal mechanism has tied the scientists' hands. It is high time for a revolution in the financing mechanism for research and development. Only by so doing will scientists find new inspiration in their work.

What specific changes need to be made?

We should start from thinking about how the money could be used most effectively. In other words, the spending will be based on the proposed R&D, not on bills or invoices. I have to concede that the existing balance settlement is mainly based on compliance with administrative procedures, not on scientific or technological products. It is high time to put science and technology in service of the country's path towards industrialisation and modernisation by 2020.

As a scientist and not a lawmaker, how do you respond to the insufficient investment in R&D?

As scientists, we want to provide good products that respond to public needs. No money for R&D coupled by complex administrative procedures are the two main factors discouraging scientists. In my opinion, there should be a change in the financial mechanism to enable the scientists to perform their work better. To my understanding the Ministry of Science and Technology is preparing a proposal to amend the existing Law on the State Budget. Renewal is a must – a driving for development. There are millions of scientists in our country, and sound investment in them will make the country prosper more quickly. — VNS

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