By Uditha Jayasinghe
Local scientists were criticised yesterday by Technology and Research Minister for not drawing up and presenting a proposal for increased income so that it could be included in Budget 2012. “We accept that scientists are not given enough monetary and other resources in this country. We also acknowledge that it is essential to have good research and technology development in Sri Lanka to achieve growth.
But I don’t understand why scientists have not presented a proposal on how they can be assisted to gain a better income and research resources to the Government even though we have requested them to do so many times,” said Technology and Research Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi, adding that if this had been done, it would have been included in the 2012 Budget.
She was speaking at a media briefing organised to encourage expatriate scientists to assist in Sri Lanka’s post-war development by holding a global forum next week. It is scheduled to be held from 13-15 December.
The ‘Global Forum of Sri Lankan Scientists’ has been organised by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Technology and Research Ministry to gain the knowledge of scientists who have left the country to fast track post-war development. Over 50 expatriate scientists and 170 local scientists are expected to attend the forum.
The Sri Lankan Government has invested over Rs. 6 billion in massive infrastructure programmes since the end of the three-decade conflict in 2009 and aims to maintain its growth above eight per cent in 2012.
However, only 1.5 per cent of Sri Lanka’s manufactured exports are based on advanced technology and thousands of scientists as well as academics migrate each year due to poor income and resource issues in Sri Lanka.
“We must arrest this brain drain and the Government is taking measures to engage with the expatriate scientists so that they can contribute to local industries. The Budget of 2010 provided tax benefits to companies that engage in research. A website has been set up by the NSF so that expatriate scientists can contribute to projects in Sri Lanka.”
In addition, the NSF has established a programme for expatriate scientists to come to Sri Lanka for short periods of time and work on local projects. Their airfare and facilities will be partially funded by the NSF and local scientists can also work for short periods abroad.
Nanotechnology, biotechnology, IT, advanced design and manufacture, natural resources and food and water security are the main topics of the forum. The NSF has already made plans to collect the recommendations made at the forum and draft it into a national strategy that will be followed with the Ministry.