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Egypt plans tenfold increase in science research spending

The Egyptian government has announced ambitious plans for a tenfold increase in spending on science research over the next three years.

The plans were announced by Amr Ezzat Salama, the minister of higher education, science and technology, at the launch of the second phase of the country’s Research Development and Innovation Programme on 20 June, SciDev.Net has reported.

At the same event, Prime Minister Eessam Abdel-Aziz Sharaf declared science to be a national priority.

“Institutions of higher education and scientific research are facing difficult challenges due to the current political circumstances, and developing a system of scientific research should be a top priority,” he said.

Sharaf, who is interim prime minister until planned elections in September, described scientific research as a “vital sector” for economic and social development.

However, observers have questioned the feasibility of such a rapid increase in spending.

Mamdouh Al-Wali, a business reporter for the Al-Ahram newspaper, told Sci-Dev.Net that increasing the budget of “any item other than commodities and wages” in such a short time would prove difficult as the state budget had a projected shortfall of billions of dollars.

“The problem is not about increasing the proportion of expenditure on scientific research, but the volume of investment in real scientific research,” he said. Much of the science budget went towards staff salaries rather than research, he noted.

Hassan El-Banna Fath, an engineering professor at Alexandria University, also criticised the government’s plans.

“It would be better if this increase happened over the next ten years,” he told SciDev.Net. “Increasing the budget by such a large amount could result in a reduction of the quality of research that is funded—and is therefore counterproductive to Egypt’s research sector.”