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[ISLAMABAD] Pakistan has increased by 80 per cent the funds it gives the Ministry of Science and Technology each year to spend within the framework of the country's Public Sector Development Programme.

The increase was announced on 6 June in the annual federal budget. It brings the ministry's 2005-2006 budget for the programme to a total of US$50.3 million.

Of this, about US$10 million will be used to upgrade and strengthen research institutes.


Another US$18.5 million will be used to fund 24 new projects. The plans include setting up laboratories to monitor water quality in 117 districts, researching genetically modified rice and conducting a survey of Pakistan's potential to develop wind energy.

Others projects to be funded include pharmaceutical research and setting up facilities for 'coal cleaning', which removes pollutants from coal used to generate electricity.

Akram Sheikh, deputy chair of the Federal Planning Commission, which approves projects for the various ministries implementing the development programme, said public money is being invested to create a knowledge economy in order to develop skills and maximise Pakistan's economic output.

Sheikh said that to keep pace with other developing countries the emphasis would be on emerging fields such as genetic engineering, renewable energy, nanotechnology, remote sensing, microelectronics, robotics and space science.

Collaborations have been set up with developed countries to exchange ideas and technologies and expose Pakistani scientists to their counterparts abroad, he said.

Farid Malik, chair of the Pakistan Science Foundation, supports the increased budget but says the nation should be clearly informed about the projects' outcomes.

The investment would be a waste of national resources if it did not result in valuable commercialisation and industrialisation of science and technology, he said.

The 6 June budget also allocated US$148 million for the development of atomic energy in 2005-2006.