Editorial: Make scientific research matter

2018-09-16 10:29

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Science and Technology Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane spoke out this week about the tendency of government to be quick to sacrifice money set aside for research and use it for other purposes.

Kubayi-Ngubane said each time there was an economic crisis or emergency, money allocated for science and research was raided.

She revealed that the country spends a paltry 0.7% of the budget on research, unlike technology giant China, which had already spent about 2.5% of its budget this year on research and development.

The reality is that the picture should be the exact opposite. As a technological midget, South Africa should be spending 2.5% of its budget on research and development to make up for the gap created by countries far advanced in this sector such as Japan, China and the US.

It is shameful that we have made a choice not to view science and technology as a priority – particularly in light of the fact that a large chunk of the budget goes to education at primary and high school, where, sadly, outputs do not match the injection of resources.

South Africa needs to be spending more to build a larger base of scientists and, in particular, tap into young black scientists entering these fields for the first time.

We are cutting off our nose to spite our face. It is undeniable that there are competing budgetary priorities, and the minister of finance will once again be making hard choices when he delivers the midterm budget next month.

Investments in education and research are long-term ones and won’t bear fruit immediately. But short-term, populist decisions to appeal to the electorate will destroy this country.

We should not be the generation that betrayed our descendants by keeping them at the tail end of the innovation and development curve.

Read more on:    science

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