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[DHAKA] Bangladesh has cut its funds for science research and education by about a quarter — 27 per cent — compared to last year while hiking up allocation for atomic energy in its latest annual budget.

Funding for key scientific organisations, such as the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) and the National Institute of Biotechnology (NIBT), have suffered cuts.

In the 2012–2013 annual budget announced last week (28 June), Bangladesh’s finance minister Abul Mal Abdul Muhith announced US$ 46.25 million for the science and technology ministry, down from the US$ 63.75 million allocated in 2011–2012.

The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission received the largest chunk of the science budget pie with US$ 15.57 million – up from US$ 14.28 million in the previous year. In contrast, the NIBT will get US$ 662,500 against the US$ 737,500 allocated last year.

In the new fiscal year some US$ 1,750,000 have been allocated for science and technology programmes against last fiscal’s US$1,875,000.

BCSIR will get US$120 million against last year’s US$ 128.75 million. However, BCSIR’s member for finance, Dilip Sharma, told SciDev.Net, "This year’s allocation reduction may not hamper our research activity to a large extent, since the cut was not high."

Scientists say the lower allocation for science could have a negative impact on research( ) in science and technology and education.

Khandaker Siddique-e-Rabbani, professor at the department of physics at the University of Dhaka, told SciDev.Net: "….you can’t downsize allocation of (science) funds if you really want expansion of the sector." 

Ainun Nishat, vice-chancellor of BRAC University, one of Bangladesh’s largest private universities, described the government’s allocation for research and science education as "very meagre".

However, Yafes Osman, junior minister for science and technology, contended that the overall allocation for science has not decreased since other ministries are also engaged in science-related programmes.

Osman cited the example of ‘Digital Bangladesh’, a government initiative under the ministry of information and communication to provide free computers to schoolchildren. "So you can’t say that allocation for science education and research has been downsized."

 "We are trying to give a laptop and a multimedia projector to every school. So, science is everywhere," Osman added.