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Public-sector support for science and technology — and the financing of this support by donors — is essential for the world’s poorest countries if they are to meet the challenges of economic and social development, according to Jeffrey Sachs, the recently appointed director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York.

In a paper delivered to a conference organised by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Sachs, who is also an adviser to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, argues that “the challenges of economic development are not going to be addressed properly until we better integrate issues of science and technology into the basic economic development strategies of low-income countries”.

He urges international donors to support much greater efforts on the scientific issues facing developing countries in health, environment, agriculture, energy and other areas, particularly those in which the poorest of the poor face distinctive ecological challenges.

And Sachs also warns that the tightening up of intellectual property rights — for example in the field of biotechnology — “may slow the diffusion of technology to the world’s poorest countries that has traditionally come through copying and reverse engineering”.

Link to Sach's opinion article (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)