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[LILONGWE] Science and technology initiatives in Malawi have been shelved due to budgetary constraints, according to a report presented to parliament last week (13 February).

Malawi's Department of Science and Technology met the parliamentary committee on industry, tourism, science and technology to present the report and appeal for more funding.

The report says the government approved a budget of MK75.7 million (US$540,000) for the current financial year. But the treasury is on target to release less than half of it. 

The department has been receiving only MK2.1 million (US$15,000) a month since September 2006, according to the report.

Activities shelved include the formulation of a policy on intellectual property to protect natural resources and the production of a coherent research agenda for Malawi. Specific research projects such as a scheme testing ethanol-fuelled vehicles (see 'Ethanol-driven vehicle under test in Malawi') have also been dropped.

Upon his return from the African Union summit last month, Malawi's president Bingu wa Mutharika asked the Ministry of Finance to reconsider prioritising science and technology funding to foster the country's economic growth (see Malawi president makes post-summit pledges ).

Chairperson of the parliamentary committee, Willard Gwengwe, confirmed that the report highlights shortfalls in budgetary allocation to science.

"[The shortfall] is rather unfortunate coming at a time when science and technology was the major issue at the recent AU summit in Ethiopia," he told SciDev.Net.

At the summit meeting, African presidents declared the year 2007 as the year for scientific and technological development (see 2007 to be Africa's 'scientific innovations year'). They also adopted a resolution to increase budgetary allocation towards science and technology.