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  • Colombia promises to double science spending

The Colombian government has promised to double the proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) spent on science and technology by 2006.

However the news — announced as part of the new government's proposed four-year National Development Plan for the period 2002-2006 at a public hearing last week — has prompted a mixed response from the scientific community, some arguing that the extra money, which will raise science and technology spending to 0.6 per cent of GDP, is still insufficient.

Eduardo Posada, for example, president of the Colombian Association for the Advancement of Science told the meeting that, as GDP had decreased in recent years, the government's proposal did not represent increased spending in real terms. “We have to be more ambitious”, he said.

Margarita Garrido, director of the Colombian Institute for the Development of Science and Technology (Colciencias), said that “we have to be realistic”. But she agreed with other participants at the hearing that the government's proposals for science and technology lack coherence.

For example Garrido claimed that the proposed 2002-2006 plan is flawed in considering science and technology as two separate items. She argues that both fields are vital to development, and therefore must be linked.

Garrido called on Colombia's leading scientists to provide their input to the four-year plan. But as the plan will be submitted to parliament on 7 February, scientists will have to act quickly if they want to influence the programme.

She said that Alvaro Uribe-Vélez, president of Colombia since August, had already asked some of the nation's most outstanding scientists to help design 'Plan 2020', a separate programme which sets out a plan for the nation for the first 20 years of the century.
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