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[LILONGWE] Malawi's president has brought the country's Department of Science and Technology directly under his authority in an effort to boost innovation.

Bingu wa Mutharika's decision to move control of the department from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Private Sector Development to the Office of the President and Cabinet took effect on 1 August.

Patrick Kachimera, Malawi's principal secretary for science and technology says the department was moved to ensure that issues that need research are given the priority and resources they deserve.

On 3 August, parliament approved the 2006-2007 budget, which includes 170 million kwacha (US$1.2 million) for science and technology.

Sloans Chimatiro, senior fisheries advisor to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), welcomes the change of control.

"It is common knowledge that a country’s economic development is proportional to its level of investment in science and technology," he told SciDev.Net.

But agricultural scientist and director of Tikondwe Freedom Gardens, Glyvyns Chinkhuntha, fears that moving the department to the president's office could make it harder for people to interact with officials.

He says that creating an accessible science and technology committee would reassure people that the move was not political, but to promote development.

On 27 July Mutharika appointed a committee to oversee plans to set up the Lilongwe University of Science and Technology (LUSTEC). It will be Malawi's first higher education institution dedicated to the subjects.

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