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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Target trillion dollar exports -Minister Ranawaka

Research and development in technology is vital for economic growth. The government financial allocations through the annual budget to promote research and development are considered a major component.


Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka at the launch of the ‘Sahasak Nimewum’ exhibition

Sri Lanka's 2015 Budget proposal, presented by President Mahinda Rajapaksa have made this a key area for development.

The 2015 Budget has increased the special allowances for university academics, doctors and judiciary service employees. It is specially mentioned to provide financial allocations to develop research facilities in national universities.

Special attention given in the Budget for an economic growth based on innovations and knowledge is a positive sign, said Research and Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka at the launch of the 'Sahasak Nimewum' exhibition from October 30. "Globally 30% World GDP is based on hi tech equipment and countries which continue to move in to innovative technological advances have been able to achieve the best of it," said Minister Ranawaka.

Knowledge based economy

Minister Ranawaka was highlighting on implementing a knowledge based economy.

The question is what the new concept is in this approach. And how is it going to bring a solution? Sri Lanka as a country is struggling to achieve a stable economy that would provide better living standards to people as well as financial security.

In the present context this is not just a job for the economists. The present trends and demands in the world push for an integrated approach from all sectors. In this the research and development field plays a pivotal role. Where are we in the road to success? "As far as the ministry and the scientific community is concerned there is an ongoing debate on this matter.

The scientific community simply argues that the government fund allocations are not sufficient for research and innovations," Minister Ranawaka said.

In Sri Lanka there are over 15 research organisations under various government institutes, said the Minister. And under the Research and Development Ministry there are around five institutes for research.

Of the total, 55 percent of the expenditure are from the Government while 40 percent are from private industries and another five percent from foreign organisations in the country.

"Direct investment on research and development is around 300 million rupees per annum. This is the expenditure for research and development for 4,000 scientists.

But on the other hand the economists question as to what were the social economic benefits from these inventions.

Five-year plan

We have to prioritise our development needs, said Minister Ranawaka. And various institutes have to implement research and they can raise research themes as well, he added.

"And actually we have got serious inputs from all these stakeholders from various sectors. Thus we have identified 10 sectors and 10 interventions - that we call it 10 X 10 matrix. The government has already planned a five year investment plan. All these investments are for applied research," he said.

"The innovation plan is based on three pillars - economic growth, environmental sustainability, social justice. All these factors are necessary to successfully implement the innovation driven economic plan," he said.

In the recent past, Sri Lanka managed to prove this with SLINTEC - The Sri Lanka Institute for Nanotechnology by applying for the patent rights for five innovations. Today the number have increased and hopefully more is yet to come. Countries like Japan, Singapore, China and Malaysia of our region emerged from almost nothing to a technically advanced state incorporating more of their science and research into national development.

"Today Sri Lanka has a very good human resource, well educated improved Infrastructure. Electrification level is nearly one hundred percent. Telephone, telecommunication availability is over 100 percent. So we can simply build upon these, the new revolutionary knowledge based economy in Sri Lanka. We can achieve comparative and competitive advantages in the world market." he said.

Environment

The other factor is development with environment sustainability. This can be achieved through innovation driven economy. Economic prosperity should not be achieved at any cost. Because if we do and damage the environment irreversible processes may happen and that may damage the entire future of our next generation.

China is a good example. Even in our country we are experiencing water stress - one part of the country is faced with a drought and the other with floods.

What is the meaning of achieving economic development with irreversible damages to our environment and people are suffering from those. Protecting our water resources and arable land is important.

"Innovation or knowledge driven economy is what we see as a solution to Sri Lanka," Minister Ranawaka said.

It is time for Sri Lanka to go beyond traditional million dollar export industries such as tea, rubber and coconut, to trillion dollar advanced technology industries such as bio-technology, ICT and nanotechnology export markets.

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