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Pakistan's new government has increased science spending in its maiden 2008–2009 budget, but high inflation is set to cancel the increase out.

The government earmarked 37,041 million Pakistani rupees (around US$553 million) to public sector science and technology (S&T) in its budget presented to the National Assembly last week (11 June).

The budget contains an increase of 2.95 per cent for S&T spending — but the rise is negated by the 11 per cent inflation rate set for the next fiscal year, beginning 1 July.

The current allocation for S&T makes up 1.84 per cent of Pakistan's US$30 billion federal budget, less than last year's allocation of 1.92 per cent. This is contrary to the trend set by former science minister Atta-ur-Rahman who secured massive science spending for the country.

Pakistan's S&T spending is spread across different ministries and departments, which have received uneven cuts in funding this year.

An allocation of around US$45 million has been made to the Ministry of Science and Technology — 16.2 per cent less than last year's allocation.

The Higher Education Commission will spend US$181 million of its unchanged US$267 million budget on science and technology related research and education projects, including establishing six science and engineering universities (see Pakistan plans 'state of the art' science universities) and strengthening existing ones.

The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock has been given US$27 million, a cut of 17 per cent, for projects including establishing and enhancing crop research centres. An allocation of US$24 million — a 23 per cent decrease — has been made to the Ministry of Information Technology.

The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission's share is US$228 million, an increase of 25.5 per cent, for power generation and medical imaging projects.

Razina Alam Khan, chairperson of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology, told SciDev.Net the cut in S&T and education spending is negative for vital development projects like energy and agriculture.

But science ministry sources deny any shift in policy and say under-utilisation of funds from last year is responsible for current reductions in allocation.