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[DHAKA] Academics and researchers in Bangladesh have expressed concern over the level of science funding in the 2005-2006 national budget, announced on 9 June.

Although the 2.26 billion taka (US$36 million) allocation is a 40 per cent increase on last year's, it is too little to allow Bangladesh to meet its development goals, they say.

The information technology and education sectors will receive the largest share of the budget — nearly US$1.5 billion.

"We can't emerge as a developed nation without scientific research, and the government has to understand this," says Muhammed Ibrahim, founder and director of the Centre for Mass Education in Science, a grassroots non-governmental organisation that promotes science.

Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, vice-chancellor of the private BRAC University in Dhaka, says the budget "reflects the government's negligence towards science".

An official at the Ministry of Science and Information Communication Technology told SciDev.Net that this year's science budget is likely to be used to fund research on pesticide residues, oceanography and nuclear medicine, which involves using radioactive molecules to diagnose and treat diseases.

The ministry will also introduce several initiatives to boost information and communication technology (ICT) capacity in Bangladesh, including a one-year higher education course and an internship programme for recent ICT graduates. A high-tech IT park is also planned.

Three polytechnic institutes will be set up for girls to enhance their participation in the technical sector, added the official.

Also in this year's budget, the government announced a 10 per cent tax on income generated by the software sector, which has been tax-free since 2002.

Leaders of the software industry have urged the government, which has declared ICTs to be a key sector in national development, to withdraw the tax.

"The decision is going to affect adversely the growth of the software industry in Bangladesh which is still at an early stage," says Sarwar Alam, president of the Bangladesh Association of Software and Information Services.