[ISLAMABAD] Pakistan's 44 per cent hike in outlay for atomic energy in its 2012–2013 budget contrasts with a massive drop in funds for crop research and overshadows a much smaller hike in overall allocation for science.
Despite drawing international attention in the past two years to its increased vulnerability to climate change, Pakistan allocated a meagre 135 million Pakistani rupees (US$ 1.43 million) to its newly formed climate change ministry – a fraction of the US$ 416 million given to the atomic energy sector in the budget presented on 1 June.
Chaudhry Qamar uz Zaman, meteorologist and architect of the country's national climate change policy that was approved by cabinet in March, described as "dismal" the allocation for the climate ministry.
"Such low budgetary allocations reflect the insensitivity of the budget planners towards climate change issues the country is grappling with," he told SciDev.Net. Pakistan’s ministry of science and technology, which oversees 16 research and development institutes, received a 12.58 per cent raise, up from US$ 12.19 million in the previous year to US$ 13.94 million.
Agriculture research has received a paltry US$ 5.26 million to boost overall output of the crop, livestock, horticulture, fisheries and dairy sectors. This is a 90 per cent drop from US$ 54.26 million in last year's budget, mainly due to the devolution of the original agriculture ministry into provincial ministries in 2011.
The relatively low 13 per cent hike in the science and technology ministry’s funds has left science minister Mir Changez Khan Jamali unhappy.
"We had demanded over US1.07 billion dollars (one per cent of the GDP) in budgetary funds for S&T promotion, but with the paltry allocations it is going to be hard for us to achieve advancement in research, S&T fields," the minister told SciDev.Net.
Jamali said low funds have led to poor performance by several key sectors such as science, agriculture, water resources, environment, renewable energy and industry. Space science, which comes under ministry of defence, got US$ 7.62 million – down by 66.7 per cent against receipts in 2011–2012.
Nadeem-ul-Haq, chairman of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, told SciDev.Net that the budget had a 33.3 per cent deficit and allocations were made after taking into account tight monetary conditions in the country.
Pakistan's science, technology and innovation policy, approved in September 2011, had sought two per cent of the country’s GDP to be spent on science sectors by 2020 against the 0.59 per cent being spent at present.