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The Algerian government has raised the budget for scientific research and technological development to one per cent of its gross domestic product.

The rise, equivalent to 100 billion Algerian dinars (almost US$1.5 billion) was announced last week (11 December) and will be used to implement an ambitious science and technology programme over the next five years.

"The Algerian government considers [science and technology] as a key sector," said Souad Bendjabellah, delegate minister in charge of scientific research, presenting a draft law for the scientific research and technological development programme to the government's House of Representatives.

"This will be followed by a second step which aims to bring the scientific research budget to 1.5 per cent [of gross domestic product] by 2011," she added.

Bendjabellah said that the money has been allocated to support 100 new programmes to develop technological and scientific research in Algeria over the next five years.

These include the reactivation of the Algerian National Council for Scientific Research — which was operative in the late 1990s but closed due to lack of funding — to help coordinate the country's researchers.

A separate council will be established to follow-up and evaluate scientific research projects.

The government has also decided to exempt local and imported scientific equipment from customs duty and value added tax. Bendjabellah said that the state had spent up to half its equipment budget in taxes over the previous five years.

The programme also aims to improve the working conditions of scientific researchers, and attempts to curb the brain drain by issuing 'status laws' to reinforce their professional status and improve their working rights.

"About 40 thousand Algerian researchers and specialists have emigrated abroad in recent years to flee lack of appropriate environment, causing more than US$40 billion loss to Algeria," Khiati Mohamed, president of the National Centre for Health Scientific Research, a nongovernmental research institute, told SciDev.Net.

"I think this project will boost scientific research in Algeria, especially in terms of giving importance to human resourses as well as issuing a status law for scientific researchers as we have always called for," says Mohamed.