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Seven questions about science: GOOD

In the first of a series of articles giving South Africa’s political parties a soapbox from which to answer seven questions on science policy ahead of the May polls, GOOD talks about student funding and its plans to boost the public purse.

We sent the same seven questions to each of the parties to see how they would answer—so that you, the voter, can compare their policies ahead of May’s polls. It is up to the parties themselves to answer the questions in a timely manner.

First up: GOOD, former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s new party.

1: Does your party promote a spending target for research and development (R&D) as a proportion of South Africa’s GDP?

We have not yet determined a specific target.

2: If your party wants to boost the funding available for R&D in the country, how will it raise the required budget given the financial constraints facing the public sector?

The fastest growing item on the government budget is our ballooning debt. GOOD aims to cut government spending by:

  • stopping corruption and cadre deployment;
  • reducing duplicated layers of administration within national, provincial and local governments; and
  • making our state owned enterprises financially independent.

Reduced wasteful spending and stopping losses to corruption, or inefficiency as a result of inappropriate appointments of cadres, will free up funding and allow us to invest more of our taxes in our citizens and in the infrastructure and services that we need. Education is a key priority for our future.

3: Is the way science, technology and innovation is currently governed at the national level—as a shared policy area between the departments of science and technology, trade and industry, health, higher education and so on—fit for purpose, or do you want to change it?

GOOD advocates for a smaller cabinet, so some amalgamation of roles would be promoted to enhance efficiencies.

4: Postgraduate and postdoctoral students face particular funding constraints in South Africa. This causes many of them to leave academic research and go into industry—especially those who lack plentiful financial support from home. Do you have any ideas for how to help them?

Sufficient funding and support for higher education must be available to those deserving students most in need. We can increase funding and access to education if we reduce corruption and inefficiencies in government spending.

5: It is currently difficult for non-South African students and researchers to come and work and study in the republic due to unclear and onerous visa regulations. Are you planning to change this, and how?

The role of any government is to provide very clear policy guidelines and certainty. The last few years of confusion and mismanagement of the country’s visa system and requirements must end. Not only has this impacted student visas, but the impact of visas on tourism created knock-on effects across the country.

6: Should there be quotas for research funding allocations in South Africa, such as ring-fencing money for previously disadvantaged research institutions and/or researchers who hail from previously disadvantaged population groups?

Our most deserving students and institutions should benefit the most from available funding. In South Africa, the face of poverty is a black woman. Education is key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty and education grants are thus vital for those that need them most.

7: Does South Africa need more or fewer international collaborations in research, science and technology?

More international collaborations are essential. Through exchanges and sharing of information, research approaches and science and technology skills, students, academics and the institutions and countries involved all benefit.